Queensland initiative to find new drug treatments secures state funding

5 Nov 2015

An initiative to create new and potentially life-changing drugs has taken a step forward at The University of Queensland following an Advance Queensland funding agreement with the Queensland Government.

The Queensland Emory Drug Discovery Initiative (QEDDI), to be based at UQ, will translate world-class academic drug discovery into candidates for clinical trials.

More than $16m has been committed over the next three years, with UQ contributing $12.247 million from UniQuest commercial returns in addition to Queensland Government funding of $4.169 million to the end of 2018.

UQ Vice-Chancellor and President Professor Peter Høj said the funding would provide facilities and resources to accelerate efforts to bring promising treatments through to development to target diseases such as cancer, diabetes, inflammatory disorders, neurodegenerative and infectious diseases.

“This initiative provides the infrastructure and industrial expertise to focus some of Queensland’s most brilliant scientific and medical minds towards developing new treatments that could make a difference to the lives of people around the world,” he said.

“The Queensland Government has recognised that bringing new treatments from the lab to market is a process that can take decades.

“By translating promising research, this initiative will help ensure future benefits can be shared widely, and that Queensland researchers can play a key role in these breakthroughs.”

Professor Høj said UQ was able to draw on the extensive expertise of Emory University’s Institute for Drug Development (EIDD) and Drug Innovation Ventures at Emory (DRIVE), led by Professor Dennis Liotta, the inventor of one of the world’s most widely-used HIV drugs and Dr George Painter respectively.

Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk announced the State’s plans to support the initiative after discussions with Professor Liotta and Professor Høj in the US in June this year.

“This funding agreement is a prime example of the kind of collaboration today that can deliver the industries and jobs of tomorrow,” Ms Palaszczuk said.

“Queensland has world recognised excellence in medical research, and with this support through Advance Queensland we will be able to translate a greater number of discoveries into potential healthcare products and treatments.”

Professor Høj said Emory’s in-kind support, advice and the involvement of Professor Liotta was a tremendous external validation of UQ’s research excellence and expertise in drug discovery and development.

QEDDI will have the capability to perform drug discovery, medicinal chemistry and preclinical development to identify promising small molecule drug candidates and develop them to a stage where they may be of interest to pharmaceutical companies or investment companies for further development.

The initiative was brokered by UQ’s commercialisation company UniQuest through discussions with EIDD and DRIVE in Atlanta, US.

In addition to the funding from the State Government, UQ and UniQuest will each provide funding to QEDDI over the next 10 years through a reinvestment of returns from commercialisation activities.

UniQuest Chief Executive Dr Dean Moss said his team was excited to be managing the QEDDI initiative on behalf of its stakeholders.

“What better way to create change than through the development of life-changing drugs for the benefit of people around the world?” Dr Moss said.

UniQuest Communications: Nicole Cowan, n.cowan@uniquest.com.au, 0409 767 199; UQ Communications, communications@uq.edu.au; +7 3346 0561