US$9 million raised for QLD biotech

22 Sep 2006

A Queensland biotechnology company has raised US$9 million (about AUS$11.9 million) to fund the development of new types of therapeutic drugs. 

Protagonist Pty Ltd, whose technology is based on research at The University of Queensland's Institute for Molecular Bioscience (IMB) yesterday announced the closing of Series A financing, led by Lilly Ventures, together with co-investors StarFish Ventures and Queensland BioCapital Funds (QBF). 

Protagonist was spun out by the IMB's commercialisation company, IMBcom in 2001. The company targets disorders such as asthma, rheumatoid and psoriatic arthritis, gastro-intestinal disorders and diabetes-related conditions. 

“This funding is extremely important for us as it means we can continue our research and advance our drugs to clinical trials,” Dr Mark Smythe, CEO and founder of Protagonist, said. 

Protagonist uses the world-class drug discovery facilities at the IMB to identify chemical compounds that could be used to target disease-causing proteins, reversing or inhibiting their effects. 

The company is working towards replacing current medication that must be injected intravenously with oral or non-injectable treatments. 

As a result of the investments, Dr Ron Laufer from Lilly Ventures, Dr Michael Panaccio from Starfish Ventures and Dr Gregor Rozenburg from QBF have joined the Protagonist Board of Directors. 

Dr Peter Isdale, CEO of IMBcom said that the investment of venture capital was significant by Australian standards. 

“IMB research has led to the establishment of ten biotechnology startup companies by IMBcom since 2000 and more than $64M has been invested in their growth,” he said. 

Media contacts: 
Dr Mark Smythe – 07 3346 2977 

Dr Peter Isdale – 07 3346 2180 

Bronwyn Allan (IMB Communications) – 07 3346 2134 or 0418 575 247