19 May 2020
Four research projects have been awarded generous Australian Government subsidies to fast-track their discoveries into new medicines using the National Drug Discovery Centre (NDDC) at The Walter and Eliza Hall Institute.
The centre provides researchers in Australia with access to the latest in advanced robotic high-throughput screening to enable patients to potentially benefit from novel treatments sooner.
The four new projects will focus on finding new treatments for drug-resistant prostate and breast cancers, blood cancers, antibiotic-resistant infections and Prader Willi Syndrome (PWS). The subsidies cover 90 per cent of the cost of using the NDDC, reducing the cost of a traditional screening campaign – normally upwards of $300,000 – to around $30,000-$45,000.
Dr Brian Dymock, from UniQuest’s drug discovery initiative, QEDDI, at The University of Queensland, will lead a project to be first-in-class to inhibit the growth of primary and drug-resistant prostate and breast tumours and reduce resistance to current therapies.
Dr Lorna Mitchell, representing teams from Biocurate and Monash University, will receive a subsidy to investigate new medicines for the treatment of blood cancers including Burkitt’s lymphoma (BL), diffuse large B-cell lymphoma (DLBCL), and multiple myeloma (MM).
Dr Liam Sharkey, from the Doherty Institute and University of Melbourne, will screen for compounds that can overcome antibiotic resistance in Staphylococcus aureus, a “high priority pathogen” for the development of new antibiotics as designated by the World Health Organization.
Professor Marnie Blewitt and Associate Professor James Murphy, from the Walter and Eliza Hall Institute, will seek new treatments for Prader Willi Syndrome (PWS), a debilitating, incurable disease apparent from birth, with devastating consequences for patients and their families. Current treatments only target certain symptoms of this complex disease, none address its root cause.
Round three applications for subsidised access to the NDDC will close in late 2020 with successful recipients chosen by an independent panel. There are two funding rounds per calendar year with increasing capacity until 2022.
The $75 million centre, which was opened by Australian Health Minister, the Hon. Greg Hunt, and Victorian Health Minister, the Hon. Jenny Mikakos, in March 2020, is advancing Australia’s drug discovery capabilities and reducing the amount of time it takes to bring new medicines to market.
The NDDC was generously supported by $25 million from the Australian government and $18 million from the Victorian Government, with a $32 million investment from the Walter and Eliza Hall Institute, which includes income from the sale of venetoclax royalties and philanthropic gifts.
Institute director Professor Doug Hilton recognised the contributions of the Australian and Victorian governments, and philanthropic donors, for bringing the NDDC to life and ensuring researchers have access to the latest technologies to advance their projects.
“We are very thankful for the generous contributions, which have enabled our colleagues from Australian research institutes, universities and small-to-medium enterprises to advance their research beyond the bench. We are proud to provide them with world-class facilities and staff as they fast-track their drug discovery journeys,” Professor Hilton said.
“We look forward to seeing the results of these ground-breaking research projects progress in the years to come resulting in new treatments for patients in Australia and around the world.”