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Potential anticancer discovery heads to developmen

11 May 2005

Potential anticancer discovery heads to development

A potential anticancer agent discovered by Victoria University scientists is to be developed in association with the prestigious University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center at Dallas and the Dallas-based biopharmaceutical company, Reata Pharmaceuticals Inc.

Peloruside, a novel potential anticancer agent, was discovered in a marine sponge living in New Zealand’s Pelorus Sound by Victoria University Senior Lecturer Dr Peter Northcote and colleagues at National Institute of Water and Atmospheric Research. It has been developed in collaboration with scientists in the Schools of Chemical & Physical Sciences and Biological Sciences at Victoria University the Malaghan Institute of Medical Research in Wellington, and the Auckland Cancer Society Research Centre.

Dr Northcote said that Peloruside shares a molecular target with Taxol, a cancer therapy agent developed for use against ovarian and breast cancer. Taxol commands gross sales of more than $US2 billion a year, but the pharmaceutical industry is searching for a replacement with improved properties. Peloruside is one of a handful of compounds being assessed as a second generation Taxol like anti-cancer agent.

The development of Peloruside, which has been patented in the United States by the University’s commercial arm, Victoria Link Ltd, has previously received a $2.3 million grant from New Zealand’s Foundation for Research, Science & Technology as well as grants from the New Zealand Cancer Society and the Wellington Medical Research Foundation.

Dean of Science at Victoria, Professor David Bibby welcomed the agreements.

“These agreements are not only a major step towards realising the great promise Peloruside has shown in research carried out in New Zealand, but also signify Victoria’s growing strength in biomedical science.

“UT Southwestern Medical Center is a powerhouse of the biomedical and biotechnological sciences in the United States, with annual revenues of $US800 million and a faculty that includes four active Nobel laureates. To be able to progress the development of Peloruside with UT Southwestern and Reata is a significant move.”

But Professor Bibby emphasised that the fruits of the research would be several years down the track.

“The lead time for the development of any potential drug, from its initial discovery to the primary research and then on to clinical trials and approval for use, is always lengthy, often up to 15 years. Peloruside is not even a quarter of the way down that track but our researchers remain optimistic that it will go the full course.”

President and Chief Executive of Reata, Warren Huff, also welcomed the agreement.

“These exciting compounds are an important component of the Reata product pipeline. Microtubule-stabilising agents are among the most important drugs available for the treatment of cancer, and the development of useful new agents in this class is an important goal to increase therapy options for cancer patients. We are pleased to be collaborating with UT Southwestern and Victoria University in the further development of these promising drugs.”

Dr Dennis Stone, Vice President for Technology Development at UT Southwestern said the three-way agreement illustrates the importance of global collaboration in creating new pharmaceutical products.

”It also exemplifies the crucial role university research plays in the process leading to new clinical advances. It creates real value for all parties, and more importantly, serves as the springboard for the development of an important new anti-cancer agent that can benefit mankind."

Professor Bibby said Victoria’s growing strength in biomedical science was recognised last year when the Malaghan Institute of Medical Research, New Zealand’s only independent biomedical research centre, moved on to the University’s Kelburn Campus. This partnership has allowed Victoria and the Malaghan to not only further their already extensive research links – including the development of Peloruside – but also to develop new areas of biomedical research and teaching.

In a related move, in 2004 the University also launched the Centre for Biodiscovery and the Centre for Marine Environmental & Economic Research as a part of its drive to grow its biological sciences research capabilities and teaching base.


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