An extended contract agreement with Queensland company EcoBiotics will see University of Queensland scientist Dr Craig Williams continue to support EcoBiotics’ quest to develop new medical therapies from ancient rainforest species.

UQ’s main commercialisation company, UniQuest, facilitated the contract extension through its Consulting and Research division.

EcoBiotics is a Queensland life sciences company specialising in the discovery and development of new chemicals from rainforest plants for use in pharmaceuticals and neutraceuticals for humans and animals.

A recent $10m capital raising initiative has enabled the company’s subsidiary, QBiotics Limited, to fund trials in 2011 of its anticancer lead compound EBC-46.  QBiotics is developing EBC-46 for the local treatment of solid tumours in humans and animals.  EBC-46 will be the first Australian rainforest-derived drug to enter human clinical trials.

Dr Williams, a researcher and Senior Lecturer in the School of Chemistry and Molecular Biosciences, has been involved with EcoBiotics for six years. With his chemistry research team and Professor Peter Parsons at the Queensland Institute of Medical Research, he will help examine the chemical composition and structure of plant material supplied by EcoBiotics, and chemically replicate it as required and where possible.

The research also involves a high-field nuclear magnetic resonance spectroscopy instrument ( 900MHz), a flagship resource at UQ’s Centre for Advanced Imaging (CAI) and the only equipment of its kind in the southern hemisphere.

“Working with EcoBiotics has been one of the most rewarding experiences in my career so far,” said Dr Williams.

“As well as being involved personally with the development of potential new treatments for cancer, I have been able to broaden the scope of my scholarly activities with relevant case studies, collaborate with other researchers, and publish high-impact and industry-collaborative research.”

UniQuest’s Managing Director, David Henderson, said the contract demonstrates the University’s capability to provide world-class and multi-disciplinary research resources to boost industry innovation in Queensland and help Australia contribute to solving global health problems.

“Industry engagement can have a ripple effect, especially when there’s synergy between the client’s needs, the researcher’s expertise, and the University’s support for sharing resources,” Mr Henderson said.

“When UniQuest brings science and industry together in a commercial context it’s more than a service transaction. It’s the catalyst for pushing the boundaries of knowledge and breaking new ground, particularly with projects like this one where various research teams are involved.

“Building relationships to contract level takes a high degree of commitment to industry engagement, which this agreement has had from Professor Ian Brereton, CAI’s Director of Research & Technology and Professor Alastair McEwan, Deputy Dean of UQ’s Faculty of Science. It’s also reflected in the University’s funding commitment in both of these research areas.”

Dr Victoria Gordon, Chair and Chief Executive Officer of EcoBiotics, said the company was pleased to be continuing its relationship with UQ.

“Contracting UQ research facilities has made very good business sense.  It has allowed the company to keep overheads down while accessing world-class research facilities and researchers.  Dr Craig Williams and his group are valued members of our team and have assisted greatly with the development of our products,” Dr Gordon said.

The contract has been extended for another three years.

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