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Emory University's Dennis Liotta
Emory University's Dennis Liotta

QUE Oncology, Inc. is developing novel therapies to address unmet medical needs in the treatment of cancer and its consequences. It was formed through a collaboration between Emory University, in Atlanta, Georgia, and UniQuest – the research commercialization company of The University of Queensland (UQ) in Brisbane, Australia.

QUE Oncology licensed intellectual property originating from research discoveries at both UQ and Emory’s Institute for Drug Development (EIDD). The leading drug candidate is Q-122, a compound with anti-inflammatory properties that has completed a successful Phase 1b clinical trial.

Q-122 is being developed for the treatment of hot flashes in women receiving anti-estrogen therapy for breast cancer. The other assets in the company’s pipeline are for the treatment of prostate cancer, breast cancer, multiple myeloma, metastatic melanoma, and neuropathic cancer pain.

Chief Executive Officer of QUE Oncology Dr Wendy Painter, MD, MPH, said the latest results for Q-122 were very promising.

"The Phase 1b study results are exciting, especially with a non-hormonal drug candidate, and they position us well to move into a dose-defining Phase 2 study in this patient population," Dr Painter said.

Women taking estrogen-blocking drugs have few options to treat the debilitating hot flashes that often occur as a result of their treatment. Hot flashes were reduced by nearly 60 percent among study participants. A number of subjects experienced a complete response, having their hot flashes decrease from more than 50 per week to zero.

UniQuest CEO Dr Dean Moss said it was encouraging to see promising outcomes from the collaboration coming to light.

"The catalyst for establishing QUE Oncology was the recognition of a number of synergies between the two universities. Both Emory University and The University of Queensland value the translation of world-class research into new treatments that will not only deliver value, but make a real impact for cancer patients around the world.

"We were particularly keen to build on the established relationship between Emory and UQ and, in particular, to leverage our relationship with Emory’s Professor Dennis Liotta, who is recognised internationally for successfully developing, commercialising and partnering drugs to pharmaceutical companies," Dr Moss said.

In establishing QUE Oncology, Dr Judy Halliday, Senior Director, Commercial Engagement – Science, worked closely withProfessor Liotta in identifying complimentary drug discovery and development programs – two from Emory and three from UQ – which could be combined into a cancer start-up.

The company is virtual in nature, allowing it to maximise opportunities or attracting investment and partnerships in both the US and Australia. Its board of directors, leadership team and scientific collaborators are drawn from the expertise of both universities, including Emory’s Professor Dennis Liotta and UQ’s Professor Maree Smith – a world-renowned leader in the research of chronic pain and lead inventor behind the asset in Spinifex Pharmaceuticals.

QUE Oncology is seeking pharmaceutical partners and venture capital to fund the clinical development of Q-122 and advance its pipeline of small molecule drug candidates and biological targets. QUE Oncology is a virtual organization which retains the services of key consultants with significant experience in pharmaceutical research and development, and the company leverages the infrastructure of both partner universities.