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Posted 6 April 2015 by Sion Barry.

Professor Sir Chris Evans

Professor Sir Chris Evans

The first proton beam centre in the UK will open in Newport next year after the company behind it, Proton Partners International, raised £100m.

The company behind the UK first’s cancer treating proton beam centres in the UK is being supported with £10m equity backing from the Welsh Government.

Cardiff-based start-up venture Proton Partners International will initially be located at the Life Sciences Hub in Cardiff Bay. It has raised £100m to build three proton beam centres in the UK.

The first centre, which will also pioneer other cancer therapies and clinics, will be based at Celtic Springs business park in Newport.

It will open in the summer of next year. The other two in the first wave of centres will be in Northumberland and London, which will be operational by 2017.

US technicians in proton beam technology will be in Wales to provide training ahead of the centre’s opening.

As well as treating private patients the centres will also treat NHS patients. The NHS spends at least £100,000 per patient transferred overseas for proton beam treatment.

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Biggest investment yet

The investment into Proton Partners includes the biggest investment to date from the Welsh Government’s Wales Life Sciences Investment Fund.

The £50m fund, which is seeking match funding to take it to at least £100m, is managed on a discretionary basis by the Arthurian Life Sciences, which is chaired by Port Talbot-born serial investor and entrepreneur in the life sciences sector Sir Chris Evans.

Sir Chris is also deputy chair of Proton Partners International. Arthurian put the project together and led the successful fundraising round.

Sir Chris said: “We are delighted that the UK’s first centre will be based in Cardiff. The Wales Life Sciences Investment Fund is proud to support this breakthrough. There are more than 150,000 people treated for cancer each year in the UK and the demand for treatment is growing.

It is anticipated that NHS demand for proton beam therapy abroad will reach 1,500 patients by 2017. Proton Partners will be able to play a leading part in helping meet demand in the UK as of next year.”

The NHS first’s proton two proton team centres will not open until 2018.

In addition to state of the art proton beam services the Newport centre will provide conventional radiotherapy, chemotherapy and supportive care. This could then be offered through other centres.

Next phases

Sir Chris said: “Arthurian put this project together very rapidly and people very quickly grasped what we were talking about. It is a very good model. We have also received fantastic support from Business Minister Edwina Hart.

After the first three centres will be looking at a further 3-4 in the UK and a similar number overseas over the next few years. We are already looking at another big funding round before looking to float the business, which will provide more capital to invest in the business.”

The technology

Proton beam therapy is a highly-targeted type of radiotherapy that can treat hard-to-reach cancers, such as spinal tumours, with a lower risk of damaging the surrounding tissue and causing side effects.

As well as the Wales Life Sciences Investment Fund other backers in the funding round include world leading investor in the biotech sector Neil Woodford – who is also understood to be interested in backing a larger Wales Life Sciences Investment Fund.

Sir Chris said the first centre in Newport, a former endoscopy site, was chosen due to its close proximity to the M4, so providing easy access to staff and patients from across South Wales and the west of England

He added: “It is conveniently located close to Velindre and the University Hospital of Wales in Cardiff, as well as to serving the south-west of England. We are already on site for what is a hugely exciting project for Wales.”