8 Jul 2020

Australian universities join forces to tackle inflammatory lung disease

Professor Merlin Thomas, lead scientist
 in the RAGE Biotech consortium.
A new spin-out company, RAGE Biotech, will develop novel therapies designed to help patients with chronic inflammatory lung diseases such as severe asthma, cystic fibrosis and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), supported by investment from IP Group, Monash University (Monash) and The University of Western Australia (UWA).

Globally, COPD is the fourth leading cause of mortality and morbidity, with chronic inflammation being a key feature and driver of disease progression in COPD, cystic fibrosis and severe asthma.

RAGE Biotech is developing new approaches to modulate the receptor for advanced glycation end-products (RAGE), an important target in chronic inflammation with links to COPD and cystic fibrosis.

The company is founded on intellectual property co-developed by leading researchers from Monash University, The University of Western Australia, Murdoch University and the Baker Institute, licensed to RAGE Biotech by Monash Innovation.

The breakthrough discoveries were led by endocrinology expert Professor Merlin Thomas of the Central Clinical School, Faculty of Medicine, Nursing and Health Sciences, Monash University, in collaboration with Professor Kevin Pfleger of UWA and The Harry Perkins Institute of Medical Research and Professor Steve Wilton of Murdoch University.

Prof Thomas said that standard-of-care treatments fail to adequately control inflammation, leading to an inevitable worsening of disease severity.

“Inflammation is the driving force in many important diseases,” Professor Thomas said. “RAGE is a key protein that amplifies inflammation, so targeting RAGE helps bring inflammation back under control.

“Often it’s not easy to turn inflammation down without disrupting pathways needed for good health. But RAGE only turns up when things are going wrong, which makes it such a great target.”

RAGE Biotech will test two novel approaches to modulate RAGE. The first was developed in collaboration with Prof Wilton at Murdoch University, who developed the first FDA-approved therapy for Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy. A second approach was developed in collaboration with Prof Pfleger, Head of Molecular Endocrinology and Pharmacology at UWA’s Centre for Medical Research and the Harry Perkins Institute of Medical Research.

Professor Thomas added: “This is the beginning of an exciting translational journey towards a new therapy targeting RAGE, that would not have been possible without collaboration and funding from our universities and IP Group.”

Managing Director of IP Group Australia, Michael Molinari, said IP Group was excited to invest to build and support outstanding intellectual-property based companies, embracing early-stage ideas from university partners across the Group of Eight and University of Auckland.

“This is a particularly exciting investment for IP Group in a truly Australian technology, and a great example of what can be done when researchers from our world-leading institutions across the Group of Eight and elsewhere come together”, Dr Molinari said.

Dr Alastair Hick, Senior Director of Monash Innovation, said “We welcome investment in this program from IP Group, supporting our efforts to translate the research outcome of a true Australian multi-institutional cross-collaboration, further validating the quality of our research and translation teams.

“Universities and medical research institutes are well known as sources of new medicines and being able to partner with IP Group is so important in terms of giving these breakthroughs a chance at being developed and commercialised”, Prof Tim Colmer, UWA’s Deputy Vice-Chancellor Research said.

Find out more about the main players below.

RAGE Biotech: http://ragebiotech.com/

IP Group

IP Group is a leading intellectual property commercialisation company focused on evolving ideas from its partner universities into businesses. The Group pioneered a unique approach to developing these ideas and the resulting businesses by providing access to business building expertise, capital, scientific insight and the supporting infrastructure. In Australia and New Zealand, IP Group works in close partnership with the Go8 Universities and the University of Auckland to identify new scientific evidence-based technologies which have the most promising commercial potential. IP Group, which is listed on the Main Market of the London Stock Exchange under the symbol IPO, has a strong track record of success and its portfolio comprises holdings in early-stage to mature businesses across life sciences and technology.
Discover more at https://www.ipgroupanz.com Follow us on:
Monash Investment Holdings

Monash University is Australia’s largest and most international university. Its extensive educational offering, delivered across 10 faculties, includes undergraduate, postgraduate and research courses. Monash is a research-intensive university, known for some significant and lasting discoveries that have delivered impact beyond the academic community.
The University is home to a range of world-leading facilities and technologies, giving it wide-ranging capabilities across many fields, sectors and industries. Monash works with a variety of industry, government and community groups, allowing its researchers to share their discoveries with the world.
Monash spans the globe, with four Australian campuses, a campus in Malaysia, a joint graduate school in China, a learning centre in Italy, a research centre in India and over 100 international partners.

More information: monash.edu
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The University of Western Australia

Established in 1911, The University of Western Australia has an international reputation for excellence in teaching, learning and research. In 2019, the Academic Ranking of World Universities (ARWU) ranked UWA at 99th in the world. As Western Australia's premier research-intensive university, UWA is a member of the prestigious Group of Eight and belongs to the Worldwide Universities Network – a partnership of 18 research-led universities spanning six continents.
The commercialisation of Harry Perkins Institute of Medical Research intellectual property developed by UWA employees is facilitated through UWA’s Office of Research Development & Innovation.

More information: www.rdi.uwa.edu.au/
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