Cancer immunotherapy in tablet step closer thanks to CUREator grant

Researchers at Telethon Kids Institute and The University of Western Australia will use a $500,000 CUREator grant, backed by the Federal Government’s Medical Research Future Fund, to progress the development of the first cancer immunotherapy in a tablet.

Building on its previous research, the team has formed a start-up company called Setonix Pharmaceuticals to develop an oral drug that boosts the immune response against cancer, potentially improving outcomes for cancer patients across the globe.

Associate Professor Joost Lesterhuis, a Program Head at the Telethon Kids Cancer Centre, said immunotherapy is the next frontier in the fight against cancer.

“Current treatments for cancer like chemotherapy and radiotherapy leave many patients with devastating long-term side effects, so by harnessing the patient’s own immune system we can use these new treatments to reduce the need for those more toxic therapies,” Professor Lesterhuis said.

“Immunotherapy has shown positive results in some cancers, but many patients still don’t experience the benefit of immunotherapies against their particular cancer.

“Our research hopes to uncover new immunotherapies so we can improve outcomes for more cancer patients.”

Associate Professor Matthew Piggott, a medicinal chemist in the School of Molecular Sciences at UWA, said the team aims to develop a tablet-based drug that increases success rates for current antibody-based immunotherapies and opens up the treatment to more types of cancer.

“We have identified a protein that dampens the immune response against cancer cells,” Dr Piggott said.

“Our proof-of-concept research in laboratory models has shown that inhibiting this protein improves the efficacy of immunotherapy treatment.”

“The next step is to optimise our lead inhibitors to identify a drug candidate for development.”

The research team will use the CUREator funding to progress cutting-edge biological and chemistry studies to develop this new class of drugs and determine which patients are most likely going to benefit.

Each year more than 1,000 Western Australians receive immunotherapy for cancer.

CUREator, Australia’s national biomedical incubator managed by Brandon BioCatalyst, announced $17.4 million to 23 projects across 6 states and territories.

The grant to Setonix Pharmaceuticals was the only grant awarded in Western Australia.

“Setonix is a great example of the outstanding quality of research we have in WA and we’re excited to support the project in advancing along the pathway to market.” said Helga Mikkelsen, Investment Analyst, Brandon Capital manager of BioCatalyst.

“We’re thrilled to support Setonix as they develop this therapy that has the potential to have a global impact.”

“Researchers in WA can benefit greatly from the incubator, as CUREator is different to typical research grants as it also provides support and expertise from across the industry to help researchers on their journey to commercial inflection and clinical impact.”

Expressions of Interest (EOI) for round two of CUREator and information can be found here.

Any Australian small to medium size enterprise (SME), or life science researcher at an Australian university or research institute is eligible to submit an application.

EOI applications close 29 August.

/University Release. This material from the originating organization/author(s) may be of a point-in-time nature, edited for clarity, style and length. The views and opinions expressed are those of the author(s).View in full here.