Agreement with Griffith University signals a major step forward for biodiscovery

Queensland’s life sciences industry got a boost today with the announcement of an important agreement with Griffith University.

Minister for Environment and Science Leeanne Enoch has signed a Benefit Sharing Agreement with the university giving Griffith University the right to use native biological material from Queensland State land and waters for biodiscovery.

“Today’s agreement with Griffith University was a major step forward for biodiscovery in Queensland, delivering research, employment and environmental benefits,” Ms Enoch said.

“They can now actively pursue commercial biodiscovery partnerships within Australia and overseas in such areas as pharma, biotech, animal health, agriculture, food and cosmetics.

“There is great potential within the massive chemical and biological diversity of nature for new medicines to be found. We could well have the cures for human diseases in our own backyard – the job now is to find them.

“The agreement also outlines requirements for sharing the benefits derived from these discoveries with the people of Queensland.”

Griffith Institute for Drug Discovery (GRIDD) Institute Principal research leader Professor Ron Quinn said the agreement provides a framework to discover the secrets of nature.

“It also provides a path to sustainably use naturally produced compounds by decoding nature’s language, something that the original inhabitants of this land valued over thousands of years,” Professor Quinn said.

Griffith Enterprise Deputy Director Dr Jens Tampe said the Biodiscovery Benefit Sharing Agreement was a milestone

“This enables Griffith to ensure that Queensland’s rich biodiversity can contribute to find natural solutions to challenges in health, agriculture, food and cosmetics for the benefit of all,” Dr Tampe said.

Biodiscovery involves collecting samples of native biological materials, such as plants, marine sponges and microorganisms, to test for chemical compounds that may have commercial applications, such as pharmaceuticals, insecticides, cosmeceuticals, and even food supplements.

Griffith University is a major player in biodiscovery through the Griffith Institute for Drug Discovery (GRIDD)’s NatureBank and Compounds Australia.

GRIDD screens Queensland plants, fungi and marine invertebrates in the search for new medical drugs and other products.

NatureBank’s Academic Lead Associate Professor Rohan Davis said international research collaborations will benefit.

“The NatureBank fraction library has recently been accessed by the University of Luxembourg for anti-Parkinson drug discovery and will also be investigated by a European-based nutraceutical company for potential new health food supplements.

“More collaborations such as these will eventuate, with the signing of the new Biodiscovery agreement,” Associate Professor Davis said.

NatureBank is a globally unique drug discovery platform, containing more than 100,000 natural product extracts and fractions ready for high-throughput screening (HTS).

In the past, most drugs were discovered either by identifying the active ingredient from traditional remedies or by a chance discovery. But these days, a new, more effective approach is to examine what’s going on at the molecular and physiological levels with disease and infection and to target specific therapeutic responses based on this knowledge.

These ‘drug targets’ are a crucial first step in the drug discovery process.

One process used to find a new drug against a chosen target for a particular disease involves HTS, whereby large libraries of chemicals are tested for their ability to modify the target.

“And this is where GRIDD’s researchers come into the picture. Not only do they have an extensive library of natural products, they also have some of Australia’s best HTS facilities available, so they can be extremely comprehensive in their search for new drug discoveries,” Ms Enoch said.

Ms Enoch said the Queensland Government was committed to stimulating and streamlining biodiscovery in Queensland, encouraging investment in the State’s economy and improving opportunities for the communities in which the native biological material is sourced.

“We are currently looking to contemporise the Biodiscovery Act 2004 to provide greater certainty and access to international markets for researchers and businesses involved in biodiscovery and to ensure it keeps pace with emerging technologies.”

Ms Enoch said the Government was currently developing options for reform and will be consulting and negotiating with key stakeholders to ensure any future changes are evidence-based and consistent with the aspirations of Government, the community and the biodiscovery industry.

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