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Leadership and innovation are a winning formula for NuCana’s vision to develop better and safer medicines.


Edinburgh-based drug development company NuCana® has been on quite a journey. Making headlines in 2014 for securing equity financing of £34 million, the company raised the largest ever biotech investment in Scotland and globally into a private company.

This investment was led by Sofinnova Ventures, a major biotech VC in the US, and included international investment partners Morningside Ventures and Sofinnova Partners alongside further investment from Alida Capital International and SIB.

The company was founded by serial entrepreneurs Hugh Griffith (CEO) and Chris Wood (Chairman) in 2008, to develop an expansive portfolio of new medicines to treat cancer. These are based on novel anti-cancer agents developed by Professor Chris McGuigan and his team at the University of Cardiff.

NuCana’s ProTide technology platform is designed to develop a new generation of superior anti-cancer medicines – nucleotide analogues. NuCana is transforming these anti-cancer agents into better and safer medicines that can overcome key tumour resistance mechanisms.  

Getting products to market

These investments allowed the company to fund the development and commercialisation of its portfolio of anti-cancer medicines.

The funds are being used to expand the clinical programme for the company’s lead product, Acelarin. This drug has shown exceptional results in patients with a range of cancers that were resistant to all conventional therapies.

Its pioneering technology creates compounds that bypass key resistance mechanisms associated with anti-cancer drugs.

Product development

Hugh Griffith, founder and CEO, identified the potential of the ProTide technology to bring a paradigm shift to anti-cancer treatment. 

Through his vision and leadership he is driving the company’s path to successful growth, building value with expedited product development.  

Hugh credits the success of the company to a blend of innovative technology combined with an experienced management team.

Hugh said: “We have strived to ensure our investors’ interests are aligned and that we all share a common vision on how best to fully exploit the potential of our technology platform”. 

US expansion

The international investment has been crucial to the success of the company allowing them to benefit from invaluable industry contacts and experience including assisting the company’s expansion into the US. 

NuCana has capitalised on Scotland’s strong pharma services industry, in addition to collaborating with world class researchers. The life sciences sector employs some 32,500 people in Scotland, and the industry contributes £3 billion annually to the Scottish economy.

Help from the Scottish Investment Bank

The Scottish Investment Bank (SIB) first invested in NuCana in 2009, and has continued to co-invest with new partners as the company continues to expand and attract interest from international investors. 

All of SIB’s funds and activities are designed to encourage increased investment into Scotland’s most ambitious companies. 

Various grants and funding options are available to businesses of all sizes for research and development, co-investment and technological innovations.

Under the new Scottish-European Growth Co-Investment Programme, Scottish Enterprise and the European Investment Fund (EIF) will provide co-investment alongside private fund managers accredited by the EIF looking to raise (primarily) equity finance of scale, to support the growth and expansion of Scottish companies.

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