28 June 2011

The University of Queensland today announced two of its leading researchers have teamed with the world’s largest biopharmaceutical company to develop new peptide-based medicines for the treatment of major diseases.

Peptides are small proteins that can be targeted to very specific sites in the body, reducing the chance of side effects. But when taken orally, digestive enzymes break down conventional peptides, meaning they must be injected to be effective.

The project aims to develop new types of medicine that bridge the gap between existing orally bioavailable small molecules and injectable biotherapeutics by delivering a new generation of orally active therapies for diabetes and cardiovascular disease.

Professors David Craik and David Fairlie from the University of Queensland’s Institute for Molecular Bioscience (IMB) have received $2.5 million from the Australian Research Council (ARC) to partner with Pfizer in developing a new generation of medicines that will help overcome the limitations of existing treatments.

“We are engineering new types of molecules based on peptides and proteins that are stable enough to be taken orally, yet sufficiently large to be target-specific and help lessen the side effects seen with small molecules,” Professors Craik and Fairlie said. “This project will provide a fundamental understanding for the development of new classes of medicines with the potential to treat a range of diseases.”

Pfizer is committed to advancing discovery and harnessing innovative science through partnerships. In addition to partnering closely with the IMB to discover and co-develop next generation medicines, Pfizer will also contribute $2.4 million in funding to the collaboration over the next three years.

Dr Dan Grant, Pfizer’s Head of External Research & Development Innovation (Australia, New Zealand and Singapore) said peptide research is one of the most promising fields in the development of the new medicines. The collaboration with IMB supports Pfizer’s Cardiovascular Metabolic Diseases Research Unit (CVMED).

“The development of peptide-based medicines promises to treat diseases that are not currently treatable or well managed with available medicines, such as diabetes. Our CVMED unit is focused on supporting and treating patients with diabetes and the discovery of these innovative therapies may dramatically improve the quality of life for hundreds of thousands of Australian diabetes sufferers,” said Dr Grant.

The partnership connects leading scientific minds with world class industry expertise using cutting edge science, with the hope of creating a platform to better understand serious diseases, bring new medicines to patients sooner and help meet unmet medical need.

Brad Edwards, the Head of Pfizer Australia’s Specialty Care Business Unit, added: “Pfizer is pleased to be partnering with the University of Queensland’s Institute for Molecular Bioscience. Our researchers recognise strengths that exist within the IMB and in particular that Professors Craik and Fairlie are world leaders in peptide chemistry and peptide-drug design.”

Media contacts: For more information or interview opportunities with Dr Dan Grant, please contact Jasmeet (Jasmine) Kaur - 02 9850 3785 or 0423 295 827

To speak to Professors David Craik or David Fairlie, please contact Bronwyn Adams - 07 3346 2134 or 0418 575 247

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