A NEW cancer drug developed in Australia has been licensed to US pharmaceutical company Merck in a $730 million deal.
Merck will advance the drug to clinical trials, in a bid to commercialise the cancer and non-cancer blood disorder treatment worldwide.
The financial returns will be shared between the Cancer Therapeutics CRC and its research partners CSIRO, Monash University, Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre and the Walter and Eliza Hall Insititute, as well as the Wellcome Trust and Cancer Research Technology in the UK.
CSIRO research partner Dr Tom Peat says the drug is designed to inhibit the protein PRMT5, which is linked to a range of cancers including mantle cell lymphoma, lung cancer, breast cancer and colorectal cancer.
"Patients who have these types of cancers often have high levels of this protein, which is unfortunately also linked to poor survival rates," Dr Peat says.
"Using our recombinant protein production facilities, we were able to produce samples of these proteins, crystallise them for structure based drug design and support the consortium's pre-commercial investigations and trials.
"Access to high quality protein is absolutely critical in structural biology approaches to drug discovery, and CSIRO is pleased to be able to contribute this key capability."
He says the research consortium was able to develop a drug that binds to this protein, allowing it to target cancerous cells.
PRMT5 inhibitors also have the ability to switch on important genes in the development of blood, which could provide disease-modifying treatment options for patients with blood disorders like sickle cell disease and beta thalassemia.
"We're thrilled to be part of this development, which has the potential to make a real difference for patients here in Australia and around the globe," Dr Peat says.
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