Flinders deal to prevent pain and deliver financial gain

Flinders University has signed a deal with biotechnology firm, Xenome Ltd, to license research that will assist in the development of drugs to arrest acute pancreatitis, a condition that causes hundreds of thousands of hospitalisations around the world each year.  The deal has the potential to generate multi-million dollar revenues for Flinders University through milestone and royalty payments.

Researchers at Flinders University and Flinders Medical Centre, led by Chief Medical Scientist Professor Gino Saccone, have discovered that surface receptors in the central nervous and endocrine systems, when activated by the peptide galanin, act as a step in the biochemical cascade that leads rapidly to acute inflammation of the pancreas.

More than a fifth of patients with acute pancreatitis – one of the most high profile victims of which was former Federal Labor Party leader, Mr Mark Latham – go on to develop severe acute pancreatitis, a potentially life-threatening disease.

Using animal models of pancreatitis, the Flinders researchers have identified two peptides that block the activity of the galanin receptors, resulting in amelioration of acute pancreatitis.

While there are existing drugs that treat some symptoms and complications of pancreatitis, the peptide-based treatment promises the ability to treat the condition directly.

Flinders Partners Pty Ltd, the technology transfer arm of the University, has licensed the new technology to Xenome, a company with extensive experience in peptide development. Xenome will use its capabilities to modify the peptides to create candidate products for pancreatitis treatment that will be then taken into pre-clinical development.

Under the contract, Xenome will pay the University a series of milestone payments, as well as contracted research and royalty income.

Managing Director of Flinders Partners, Mr Anthony Francis, said it was pleasing to see ground-breaking science from Flinders in the hands of a company such as Xenome, which has a demonstrated ability to move peptide drugs through discovery into clinical development.

Xenome CEO Dr Ian Nisbet said the deal with Flinders complements the company’s internal discovery and development activities.

“New treatments for pancreatitis are desperately needed and we’re keen to take the technology from the Flinders group forward,” said Dr Ian Nisbet, Xenone’s CEO.

© Newspix, Torsten Blackwood, AFP

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