UniQuest, The University of Queensland’s (UQ) main research commercialisation company, announced today that Dendright Pty Ltd, an autoimmune therapy company and one of UniQuest’s start-up companies, has signed a R&D collaboration and option to license agreement with US-based Janssen Biotech, Inc. (Janssen) to develop and commercialise Dendright’s tolerizing immunotherapy for the treatment of rheumatoid arthritis (RA).

Under the terms of the agreement, Dendright will receive funding to support the preclinical development of the RA immunotherapy through to Phase I clinical trials and the development of companion biomarkers. In return, Janssen will receive an option to the exclusive worldwide right to develop and commercialise Dendright’s RA vaccine.  In addition to an option payment, Dendright is eligible to receive certain potential development and sales milestones as well as tiered royalties on sales. Dendright will be responsible for completing the Phase I clinical trial in Australia. Janssen will be responsible for all other development, clinical and regulatory filing activities. Dendright will remain wholly owned by UniQuest Pty Ltd.

RA is caused by immune system dysfunction and affects millions of people worldwide, destroying joints and causing cardiovascular complications that can reduce life spans by 10 years.  Dendright’s approach targets the underlying cause of the disease and therefore is differentiated from existing RA therapies which merely treat the inflammatory symptoms once the disease has developed.  In addition, unlike existing drugs, Dendright’s tolerizing autoimmune technology results in a targeted therapy, and allows suitable patients to be selected based on specific biomarkers prior to treatment, thereby improving response rates.

The new collaboration will build upon the results of previous preclinical work and develop the RA vaccine towards Phase I clinical trials.  In January 2012, UniQuest and Dendright announced a R&D collaboration with Janssen, where Janssen provided a seed grant to Dendright for Professor Ranjeny Thomas and her team to undertake preclinical development of the platform technology in RA.

“We are excited about the highly innovative therapeutic solutions being developed at UQ’s world-renowned medical research Institutes such as UQ’s Diamantina Institute and are privileged to have a role in protecting and packaging the value of the intellectual property surrounding these discoveries into commercial opportunities with significant clinical and market potential.

“We are delighted for our portfolio company Dendright to continue its strategic collaboration with Janssen.  There is a pressing need to develop new and more efficacious therapies for RA and Dendright is in an excellent position to advance Professor Ranjeny Thomas’ innovative, first-in-class approach to combat this debilitating disease,” said UniQuest’s Chief Executive Officer, Dr Dean Moss.

Dendright uses its proprietary Curcusome™ platform technology with disease specific antigens to develop tolerizing autoimmunetherapies. The therapy stimulates the patient’s own immune system to “re-educate” the cells that cause autoimmune disease. The Dendright technology induces a state of tolerance or reduced activity to the offending self-antigens resulting in an effective treatment for the long term management of the specific autoimmune disease.

“We are very pleased to be continuing our strategic collaboration with Janssen focussing on the application of our platform technology towards rheumatoid arthritis”, said Professor Ranjeny Thomas, Dendright’s Founder and Director. “Our goal is to provide RA patients with a new, safe therapy for the management of their disease, with possibility of disease prevention in the future.”

About Dendright Pty Ltd

Dendright Pty Ltd was established in 2005 by UniQuest Pty Ltd and assisted by grants from the Queensland Government’s Innovation Start-up Scheme and the Australian Government’s Biotechnology Innovation Fund so that Professor Ranjeny Thomas and her team could focus on finding a way for the body’s own immune system to “re-educate” the cells that cause autoimmune diseases. Professor Thomas’ research at The University of Queensland’s Diamantina Institute has also been supported by Arthritis Queensland, a peak community organisation, the Australian Research Council and Australia’s National Health and Medical Research Council.  In addition to the RA therapy in preclinical development, the Dendright platform technology is being used to develop new therapies for type 1 diabetes.

About UniQuest Pty Limited

UniQuest is the main commercialisation company of The University of Queensland (UQ), specialising in the commercialisation of intellectual property, research outcomes and expertise.  UniQuest delivers commercialisation outcomes which are valuable for UQ and profound for business, the environment, global communities and society as a whole. UniQuest’s two business offerings – IP Commercialisation and Expertise Commercialisation – are designed to support UQ’s global strategy, industry engagement and reputation for excellence.  UniQuest benchmarks in the top 10 percent globally for university-based technology transfer. UniQuest-licensed UQ innovations are now generating annual sales of $3 billion.  UQ superconductor technology, through licensing arrangements, is used in two-thirds of the world’s MRIs and more than 79 million doses of the life-saving Gardasil® cervical cancer vaccine, patented by UniQuest in 1991, have been distributed throughout 121 countries, including 72 developing countries.

About The University of Queensland (UQ)

The University of Queensland, Australia, is one of the world’s premier teaching and research institutions. It is consistently ranked in the top 100 in the four leading independent global rankings. With more than 45,000 students and 7500 staff, UQ’s teaching is informed by research, and spans six faculties and eight research institutes.

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