Report: UK's Chris Evans shops $750M R&D startup plan

Sir Christopher Evans, one of the U.K.'s most high-profile biotech investors, is reportedly shopping for a plan to set up a new drug R&D company with $750 million that will be used to in-license dozens of Big Pharma's research programs in a bid to capitalize on some big changes underway in the pipeline industry. Sky News business editor Mark Kleinman writes that Evans has been working with former British Prime Minister Tony Blair to scout out some cash from Middle Eastern sovereign wealth funds. And he's painting a big picture for them, promising a new company that will rank among the top 20 drug developers in the world.

Evans' biopharma company, NCPharma, is being described as "a unique biopharmaceutical company formed from over USD $1.0 billion of high quality research resulting in a portfolio of potential medicines targeted to cancer, diabetes, cardiovascular ailments and other diseases."

NCPharma supposedly has a deal to develop 32 drugs in-licensed from Merck ($MRK), following a game plan that calls on Evans' new outfit to develop the treatments before its Big Pharma partners buy the successful ones back. And its execs are reported to be in talks with J&J as well. Former Eli Lilly executive Dr. Rob Armstrong has been recruited to run NCPharma along with a lineup of veteran execs from the Wellcome Foundation, Wyeth and Sandoz.

Evans is telling investors that NCPharma can succeed where Big Pharma has failed because it will be "completely focused on clinical development of new pharmaceuticals and will not be affected by major overhead nor distracted by large corporate infrastructure, early research, large scale manufacture nor marketing activities," according to the Sky News report. "It will license-in only the best quality, premier drug portfolios from big pharma and biotech companies to develop in its unique, low-risk model."

Evans is a high profile figure in the British biotech industry. Knighted 10 years ago for his work in drug development, he was caught up in the cash-for-honours probe, but never charged. His venture group, Merlin Biosciences, has been busy setting up biotechs. And Evans himself has called on the government to take some dramatic actions to bolster the industry during hard times.

- here's the story from Sky News