Australian university signs multi-million dollar anti-cancer research deal

Australia's University of Newcastle Research Associates (TUNRA) Ltd has signed a licensing agreement worth approximately $10 million with the biotechnology company Psiron Ltd to develop anti-cancer treatments.

The agreement covers the ongoing development of technology developed at the University using oncolytic viruses for the treatment of a range of cancers.

Professor Darren Shafren heads the research team that has been working with the common cold virus as a treatment for melanoma. Laboratory results have shown that melanoma cells can be destroyed by infecting them with a common cold virus.

The results were published in January this year in the journal of Clinical Cancer Research.

Professor Shafren says, "The agreement with Psiron is a significant step in the work we have been doing as it will secure funding for the project to be able to move toward clinical trials."

The use of oncolytic viruses or virotherapy is seen as a potentially safe and effective treatment for malignant melanoma, breast and prostate cancers and may have wider applications to ovarian, colorectal and lymphoid related cancers.

The licence agreement is with Virotarg Pty Limited, a company formed between TUNRA and SciCapital to carry out the original research.

Under the agreement, ViroTarg will receive from Psiron, $5 million and 22.5 million shares, in return for the Licence, intellectual property and patents relating to the project and R&D milestones.

Psiron will fund Professor Shafren and his teams' continuing research and development of the potential anti-cancer treatment at the University of Newcastle.

Deputy Vice-Chancellor, Research, Professor Ron MacDonald says, "This is a very exciting project which could lead to a major breakthrough in cancer treatment. It is an example of the world leading research being conducted at the University of Newcastle and the licence agreement with Psiron will ensure the research gets the support it needs."

Professor Shafren is a Hunter Medical Research Institute Researcher in the School of BioMedical Sciences in the Faculty of Health at the University of Newcastle.

TUNRA and ViroTarg would like to acknowledge the generous contributions of the Greater Building Society, Ausindustry and the NSW Government's BioFirst Program without whom the project would not have been able to reach such an advanced stage in the R&D.

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