Precision painkillers that are more accurate and less harmful to the liver are set to be developed by a University of Queensland spin-off company -; potentially changing the lives of millions of people.
Professor Trent Munro, from the Australian Institute for Bioengineering and Nanotechnology (AIBN), is the scientific co-founder of Cassowary Pharmaceuticals Pty Ltd which is creating a new range of hyper-targeted medications.
Professor Munro said the drugs would help treat debilitating and chronic pain conditions associated with cancer, sciatica, post-herpetic neuralgia (a painful condition that can follow shingles), peripheral nerve injury and osteoarthritis.
This type of targeted therapy reduces the potential side effects and safety issues associated with current pain treatments, and will also mean fewer doses are required. Creating drugs with these attributes could change the lives of millions of people who suffer from chronic neuropathic pain."
Professor Trent Munro, Australian Institute for Bioengineering and Nanotechnology
Professor Munro said up to 10 per cent of the adult population were affected by neuropathic pain, and current treatments often presented problems.
"Many existing treatments are ineffective in large numbers of patients, and carry significant risk of side-effects, including addiction," he said.
Cassowary Pharma's drug candidate targets a molecule thought to be important in how the human body senses pain.
"By building on the pioneering discoveries of Emeritus Professor Maree Smith, and using the critical tools developed in the laboratory of UQ's Professor Greg Monteith, we can create a drug that is very accurate, avoids the risk of liver toxicity, and lessens the overall medication load," Professor Munro said.
After receiving funding from the Medical Research Future Fund's (MRFF) national $40 million CUREator Scheme, Cassowary Pharma will be recruiting candidates for clinical trials over the next 18 months as it ramps up efforts to hit the market.
Professor Munro said shaping Cassowary Pharma's goals was a collaborative effort, involving Dr Lucia Zacchi of the School of Chemistry and Molecular Bioscience and AIBN's Dr Martina Jones.
It was one of four UQ start-ups to receive funding earlier this year, which are each working to find new treatments for a diverse range of hard-to-treat conditions.
UQ's commercialization company UniQuest CEO Dr Dean Moss congratulated Cassowary Pharma and said the funding recognized the leadership role that UQ plays in technology transfer and commercialization.
"I am always excited to acknowledge how innovative research excellence from UQ's institutes, faculties and schools is translated into real-world impact," Dr Moss said.