Scientists from the Garvan Institute of Medical Research have developed what could be the next big blockbuster treatment for inflammatory diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis and asthma.
This discovery is being commercialised by G2 Therapies Ltd, a biotechnology company founded by Garvan, which announced the signing of an AU$135 million research, development and licensing agreement with Danish healthcare company, Novo Nordisk. The terms of the agreement include an upfront payment and other success-based payments to a potential total of around US$100 million (A$135 million), plus royalties on commercialised therapeutics. The partnership will enable the new therapy to be taken through to human clinical trials.
Professor Charles Mackay, Head of Garvan's Arthritis & Inflammation Program and founder of G2 Therapies, says: "We have done what many others have been trying to do for years. We have made a therapeutic antibody against one of the most potent inflammatory agents in the body and used it to cure arthritis in mice. The next step is to translate the highly effective outcome we see in mice to human patients. If we can do this, we will have a revolutionary new treatment for a number of important human diseases".
The body needs a certain amount of inflammation to protect itself against disease. The hallmarks of inflammation reflect the major events: swelling of localised blood capillaries, and the movement of fluid and immune cells into damaged tissue in an effort to contain infection.
When immune cells become overactive, as is the case with rheumatoid arthritis, too many of them move into damaged tissue and exacerbate the condition. The new antibody blocks the action of one of the most important molecules for guiding inflammatory cells into tissue.
"We anticipate that our antibody will be a significant improvement over current therapies because it acts at a different and earlier point in the inflammatory process compared with current anti-inflammatory therapies," says Mackay.
Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) alone affects more than 21 million people worldwide and causes swelling of major joints, severe pain, and fatigue. In addition to treating RA, Professor Mackay believes their therapeutic could also be used for psoriasis, sepsis, heart attack and transplant patients.
Professor John Shine FAA AO, Executive Director of the Garvan Institute says: "It is important to work with companies if we are to turn scientific discoveries into real patient benefits. The Garvan's commitment to taking our research from bench to bedside is evidenced by our investment in companies such as G2 and encouraging our senior scientists to participate in the commercialisation of research".
The Novo Nordisk licensing agreement has a potential value of over US$100 million (A$135 million), making it one of the largest licensing agreements ever secured by an Australian biotechnology company. Going forward, the Garvan Institute and G2 will remain involved in the crucial stages of development, making the deal one of the few true partnerships between academia and industry.
Commenting on the deal, Mr Bill Ferris AO, Chairman of the Garvan Institute's Board, says: "This is an exciting example of what is possible when you back early stage research with venture capital and encourage discoveries to develop in-house. Facilitating venture capital investment in medical research will ensure that all Australians will benefit from home-grown medical advances like the new anti-inflammatory treatment that has been developed at the Garvan."