Cancer Therapeutics CRC (CTx) receives AU$5.4 million Wellcome Trust Seeding Drug Discovery Award for novel approach to treating major blood disorders. CTx, headquartered in Melbourne and funded through the Australian Government CRC Programme, is a leading Australian drug discovery and development company. It is working closely with two of its partners, Monash University and The Walter and Eliza Hall Institute of Medical Research (WEHI), to develop drugs from one of its discovery programs in a bid to improve the life of patients suffering from the devastating blood diseases thalassemia and sickle cell disease. These disorders of the oxygen carrying protein haemoglobin are the commonest genetic diseases worldwide, affecting millions of the global population, and consuming 30% of the donated blood supply.

CTx have developed novel drugs that aim to treat these diseases by switching on the form of haemoglobin normally only used by babies before birth. This “foetal haemoglobin” can replace the damaged adult haemoglobin and allow patients to live normal lives, without regular blood transfusions or damage to vital organs. The drugs being developed by CTx are underpinned by more than 20 years of research led by Professor Stephen Jane, Head of the Department of Medicine at Monash University and Director of Research at the Alfred Hospital.

“The CTx partnership provided the necessary translational expertise needed to turn our medical and scientific research into novel treatments,” commented Professor Jane, “and enabled the project to reach a stage where it was ready to progress into clinical development.”

The major focus of CTx is developing cancer drugs but the potential benefit for these other major diseases could not be ignored so CTx turned to the Wellcome Trust for assistance. After a rigorous application and selection process CTx was successful in obtaining a Seeding Drug Discovery Award designed specifically to help applicants take later stage projects towards clinical trials.

“The Wellcome Trust award allows us to test our drugs in this important area in addition to maintaining our focus on early stage cancer,” said Dr Ian Street, Chief Scientific Officer for CTx and Principal Investigator for the project.“The plan we have agreed with Wellcome will advance the project rapidly towards the first clinical trials here in Australia.”

“This is another example where, by working under the collaborative framework supported by CRC Program funding, we can take superb Australian research and translate it into new treatments with the potential to change the lives of patients across the world,” stated Warwick Tong, CEO of CTx. “If the project progresses successfully the first trials in humans should be starting in about three years”.

More information:

Dr Warwick Tong,
CEO Cancer Therapeutics CRC Pty Ltd,

About the Wellcome Trust: The Wellcome Trust is a global charitable foundation dedicated to improving health. We provide more than £700 million a year to support bright minds in cience, the humanities and the social sciences, as well as education, public engagement and the application of research to medicine. Our £18 billion investment portfolio gives us the independence to support such transformative work as the sequencing and understanding of the human genome, research that established front-line drugs for malaria, and Wellcome Collection, our free venue for the incurably curious that explores medicine, life and art.

About Cancer Therapeutics CRC: Cancer Therapeutics CRC (CTx) is a small molecule drug discovery company that is translating innovative cancer biology research into lead and preclinical stage drug candidates. In particular it is targeting novel cancer pathways associated with the process of metastasis and children’s cancers. Located in Melbourne, Australia, the CRC was founded in June 2007 and expanded in 2014 to a collaboration of sixteen partners including leading research institutions and commercial organisations.

About the CRC Program: The Cooperative Research Centres (CRC) Program is an Australian Government Initiative. The CRC Program supports end-user driven research collaborations to address the major challenges facing Australia. CRC Program website