Dendright Pty Ltd, a UniQuest biopharmaceutical company developing novel drugs for autoimmune diseases, has had a rewarding 12 months with the publication of early clinical trial success relating to its first-generation rheumatoid arthritis treatment, the award of the first US patent which underpins its next-generation technology platform and winning Australia’s 2014 Best Research Commercialisation Deal award for its rheumatoid arthritis partnership with Janssen Biotech, Inc.

Professor Ranjeny Thomas, Dendright’s Chief Technical Officer, published Phase 1 clinical trial results in Science Translational Medicine’s June 2015 publication, demonstrating that the potential treatment for rheumatoid arthritis is safe and effective in suppressing the immune response.

Professor Thomas said the treatment targeted the underlying cause of rheumatoid arthritis.

“Current therapies only treat the symptoms and slow the progression of the disease. We have designed a vaccine-style treatment or ‘immunotherapy’ specifically for people with the most common form of rheumatoid arthritis, known as CCP-positive.

“The treatment is designed to re-educate the body’s immune system to leave certain naturally occurring peptides alone, therefore preventing inflammation.

“To accomplish this, immune cells known as dendritic cells are extracted from the body and mixed with an antiinflammatory drug and a natural peptide found in arthritic joints, before being injected back into the body once again.”

Professor Thomas said the treatment was found to be safe and to help suppress the immune response in rheumatoid arthritis, but would not be ideal for widespread treatment or prevention of rheumatoid arthritis because it’s costly and time-consuming.

“However, the promising results of this trial lay the foundations for the development of Dendright’s second generation technology – a more cost-effective, clinically-practical vaccine technology that could deliver similar outcomes for patients.”

Dendright’s next- generation technology is the subject of a US Patent Application which was awarded earlier this year. Dendright has also secured the grant of related patents in Australia, Canada and China. In August 2013, Dendright entered into a Research and Development Collaboration and Option to License Agreement with Janssen Biotech Inc., a division of Johnson & Johnson, exclusively in the area of rheumatoid arthritis to develop an immunotherapy for the treatment of RA.

The deal won Dendright and UniQuest the award for Best Commercial Deal from Knowledge Commercialisation Australia in its 2014 Research Commercialisation Awards Competition.

Dendright CEO, Helen Roberts commented “it is very rewarding for the Dendright/UniQuest and Janssen teams to be recognised in this way.

“We are delighted to be collaborating with Janssen immunology scientists in the development of our liposome-based therapy for rheumatoid arthritis. They are a knowledgeable and fully engaged partner and contribute expertise across all aspects of the program.

“The collaboration with Janssen provides them with an exclusive option to our technology in the field of rheumatoid arthritis. We retain the right to develop and partner in all other autoimmune diseases.

“Dendright is seeking partners to collaboratively target other autoimmune indications as well as celiac disease. We also have a Type 1 Diabetes program with The University of Queensland for which we are seeking an industry partner and grant funding,” explained Helen Roberts.

Dendright Pty Ltd is a wholly owned start-up company of UniQuest Pty Limited. The 2013 deal was lead at UniQuest by Dr Craig Belcher, UniQuest’s Senior Director of Industry Engagement and he is on the board of Dendright.

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