New medical uses for the Kunjin virus

Published on April 12, 2005 at 11:33 AM · No Comments

Queensland Government scientists at the Department of Health Services have collaborated with scientists at the University of Queensland (UQ) and The Queensland Institute of Medical Research (QIMR) to discover new medical uses for the Kunjin virus.

"The Kunjin virus is an Australian native member of the flavivirus family, which is geographically restricted to Northern Australia" said Associate Professor Alex Khromykh, who developed the technology at the Sir Albert Sakzewski Virus Research Centre (Queensland Health).

"Genetic engineering techniques have been used to design novel, safe and non-infectious forms of Kunjin that show early promise as gene delivery vectors. These vectors may be used for the delivery of vaccines and gene therapy treatments to treat important diseases such as HIV/AIDS and cancer" says Assoc. Prof. Khromykh. "The KUNrep technology also has significant prospects as a new method for the production of therapeutic proteins, which may be used by many of the world's pharmaceutical companies" said Assoc. Prof. Khromykh.

Replikun Biotech Pty Ltd (Replikun), a start-up company, has been formed by QIMR to further develop and commercialise the KUNrep technology.

"This is a wonderful example of the Queensland Government's Smart State initiative in action where intellectual property was discovered by scientists in the government sector at the Department of Health Services and then collaboratively developed further with scientists at QIMR and UQ" said the Premier, the Honorable Peter Beattie.

"This compelling science provides opportunities to develop new therapies for diseases such as HIV infection and cancer" said Mr Nuttall, Minster of Health. "This new Australian technology which uses an Australian native virus as its starting point, gives us a new angle for tackling the successful development of vaccines against infectious diseases and cancer, which up to now have been difficult to combat".

"Replikun Biotech is the latest start-up company to win support from our $39 million Innovation Investment Fund" said Dr Shane Storey of Start-up Australia. "The potential uses and market size for this technology was very attractive, as was the strength of the intellectual property portfolio protecting it. Start-up Australia has committed $1.875 million to further the research and to grow Replikun's business".

"It is pleasing to see investment in Australian technology by Australian venture capital, which originates from an Australian virus discovered by Australian scientists" said the Premier. "This is an example of the research value that can be created from Australia's mega biodiversity".

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