UniQuest’s drug discovery team is one of just eight projects to be awarded funding in the second round of the Australian Government’s Biomedical Translation Bridge (BTB) program to progress its novel first-in-class oral therapy for the treatment of prostate cancer.

The Queensland Emory Drug Discovery Initiative (QEDDI), established by UniQuest to translate the biomedical discoveries of The University of Queensland (UQ), will use the funding to progress the development of its small molecule inhibitors towards preclinical development.

UniQuest Executive Director of IP Commercialisation Dr Mark Ashton said the project was based on innovative UQ research which identified a key mechanism involved in major cancers.

“This is an exciting new approach to developing treatments for prostate cancer patients who have or will become resistant to standard treatments,” Dr Ashton said.

“Our novel compounds target a non-hormonal mechanism in prostate cancer which we know, based on the UQ research, correlates to disease progression, and we have demonstrated anti-tumour activity in a prostate cancer model comparable to the current standard of care.

“We are thrilled as this is just one in a pipeline of exciting cancer, inflammation and neuroscience projects in our drug discovery unit, QEDDI, that is fast approaching preclinical development.”

QEDDI is an innovative translational drug discovery and development capability established by UniQuest in 2016 with the support of UQ and the Queensland Government’s Advance Queensland Initiative.

Recognising the challenges associated with the funding and required expertise to progress academic discovery biology through medicinal chemistry to drug candidates, QEDDI was established by UniQuest as a unique initiative in Australia to progress biomedical research across the so-called valley of death to drug candidates for subsequent commercialisation.

QEDDI’s team of industry-experienced drug discovery scientists collaborate with academic researchers to translate and commercialise biomedical research to provide improved treatments for patients with considerable unmet need.

UniQuest CEO Dr Dean Moss said the funding was a strong endorsement for the project, QEDDI and UQ research.

“In a competitive scheme, the success of our BTB application is a clear third-party validation of the projects strong data package as well as our translational drug discovery initiative, QEDDI. There is an urgent need for more effective treatments with improved safety and quality of life for cancer patients, with more than 174,000 new cases of prostate cancer diagnosed in the US last year,” Dr Moss said.

“In addition to progressing a first-in-class treatment for prostate cancer, we will also explore the efficacy of our candidates in the treatment of other cancers, such as breast cancer – and continue to look for new ways to improve health outcomes for cancer patients around the world,” he said.

Delivered by MTPConnect, the Australian Government’s BTB program is a $22.3 million Medical Research Future Fund (MRFF) initiative that provides up to $1 million in matched funding to nurture the translation of new therapies, technologies and medical devices through to proof of concept to turn innovative medical ideas into reality.