A WORLD-first vaccine against peanut allergies and a heart-failure drug will be developed in Melbourne by new biotech companies born out of the state’s research institutes.
In a boost for Melbourne’s research industry and to keep the two medical projects from heading offshore, a $9 million investment will be announced today to back start-up companies making the most of the discoveries.
With Australia’s scientists traditionally struggling to gain local financial backing, the awarding of capital from the Government and superannuation fund-backed Medical Research Commercialisation Fund is a significant step.
After years of development at The Alfred hospital and Monash University, a potential vaccine against common life-threatening peanut allergies will be commercialised by Aravax after it received $4.85 million from the fund to fast-track its development.
Led by Professor Robyn O’Hehir — whose allergen immunotherapy approach has already built a $1.6 billion international company — the vaccine could potentially cure the condition by using safe fragments of the peanut protein as the basis of a treatment.
Aravax director Dr Chris Smith said establishing the new start-up company allowed Prof O’Hehir’s discovery to remain in Australia.
“These funds allow us to capitalise on this country’s excellent expertise and infrastructure for conducting early stage clinical trials,” Dr Smith said.
A drug promising to improve and extend the quality of life for millions of end-stage heart failure patients around the world will also continue to be developed in Melbourne through a $4.15 million investment by the Brandon Capital-controlled research fund.
Pioneered by the Baker IDI Heart and Diabetes Institute, the CRD-102 tablet aims to ease late-stage heart disease symptoms — including shortness of breath, fluid build-up and exercise intolerance — with medication that can be taken at home, rather than prolonged and expensive care in hospital.
MRCF principal executive Dr Chris Nave said backing medical research with capital could create sustainable jobs for the future.
State Health Minister Jill Hennessy said private investment would allow Victoria’s research sector to grow.