UQ's AMTAR hub advances the development of hyper-accurate cancer drugs

A range of hyper accurate cancer drugs is in production at a newly opened research and manufacturing hub at The University of Queensland.

The Australian Research Council (ARC) hub for Advanced Manufacture of Targeted Radiopharmaceuticals (AMTAR) is a one-stop-shop connecting biotech firms with expertise and equipment to design, test and deliver groundbreaking precision cancer treatments.

Created through a $5 million ARC grant and more than $10 million in industry funds, the AMTAR hub operates out of UQ's Australian Institute for Bioengineering and Nanotechnology (AIBN) with support from collaborators across the radiopharmaceutical supply chain.

Professor Kris Thurecht, AIBN Director of Research and Hub leader, said radiopharmaceuticals were an emerging group of drugs designed to spare the body from the harsh effects of cancer treatment.

The medical technology is still very much in development, but radiopharmaceuticals already represent a multi-billion-dollar industry that will be integral to modern healthcare.

Through AMTAR, we have an opportunity to position Australia as a global leader in this field."

Professor Kris Thurecht, AIBN Director of Research

Professor Thurecht said the non-selective nature of traditional cancer treatments such as chemotherapy and radiotherapy meant healthy cells were damaged.

"But radiopharmaceuticals offer a highly targeted approach, sending radiation equipped proteins directly to the site of cancers and minimizing the impact on the body," he said.

"Radiopharmaceutical science has been around for decades, but it is only through recent advances in scientific infrastructure and instrumentation that we've been able to conceive and create commercially viable products.

"AMTAR will be where biotech firms can connect with the scientific expertise and infrastructure needed to develop new drugs and manufacture them at scale."

ARC Acting Chief Executive Officer Dr Richard Johnson said the AMTAR hub would help unlock the power of radiopharmaceuticals and position Australia at the forefront of a rapidly growing industry.

"The ARC has a proud history of facilitating collaborations that promise wider research benefits and commercial opportunities," Dr Johnson said.

"By bringing together world-class researchers and industry leaders we are laying the foundations for a rich and lasting radiopharmaceutical manufacturing pipeline."

AMTAR is a collaboration between UQ, the University of Sydney and multi-national radiopharmaceutical industry partners including Telix, AdvanCell, Starpharma, Clarity Pharmaceuticals, Cyclowest and GlyTherix.

Telix Chief Scientist, Dr Michael Wheatcroft, said it was an exciting partnership.

"AMTAR will accelerate the development and commercialization of novel radiopharmaceuticals in Australia and the team of high quality industry, academic and research partners will enable the translational science required to bring these innovative new technologies to patients," Dr Wheatcroft said.

The AMTAR research hub will also feature contributions from The University of Nottingham and University of Tokyo, as well as the Oak Ridge National Laboratory and Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Centre in the US.

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