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Govt move reduces life-saving drugs side effects

NZ Govt backs programme to reduce side effects of life-saving drugs

Reducing the negative side effects of drugs to help combat life-threatening illnesses is a major driver behind the NZ government funding $5.9 million dollars towards a research and development carbohydrate nanotechnology programme.

Industrial Research Ltd’s (IRL) carbohydrate team have partnered with an Australian biotech company, Starpharma Ltd, to drive the programme towards a commercial reality. IRL also has a joint collaboration with the School of Pharmacy at Otago University and the Cawthron Institute.

The government funding from the Foundation for Research, Science and Technology (FRST), will support the overall plan to make nanometre-sized (smaller than microscopic) particles that will direct drugs to specific targeted cells within the human body - resulting in better performance and fewer side effects than current life-saving drugs.

The nanoparticles will have a carbohydrate coating. Carbohydrates play a central role in many human diseases and have been at the centre of many new approaches to medicine. Careful choice of the carbohydrate will allow the targeted delivery of drugs and the potential for more effective vaccines.

The nanoparticle structure will take two forms. In one instance, the carbohydrate coating will be supported by a complex skeleton known in the industry as a ‘dendrimer’. Starpharma’s CEO, Dr John Raff, says the company is keen to provide their skills in this area.

“The FRST contract and IRL’s world-competitive position in carbohydrate science, together with Starpharma’s expertise in the pharmaceutical development of dendrimers, is the foundation for a highly significant trans -Tasman alliance”.

While research and development on the five year programme is regarded as high risk, if it is successful it will have a big impact on the pharmaceutical industry by producing some extremely high value, low volume products.

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