Starpharma Holdings Limited (ASX:SPL, OTCQX:SPHRY) and the Monash Institute of Pharmaceutical Sciences (MIPS) have been awarded an Australian Research Council funding grant for the purpose of advancing a new drug delivery method that may benefit thousands of patients with particular types of cancer, HIV and lymphatic conditions world-wide.
Innovation Minister Kim Carr awarded Starpharma and MIPS $420,000 as part of the ARC’s Linkage Projects scheme aimed at encouraging Australian institutions to undertake innovative and cutting-edge research projects in collaboration with industry and other partners.
“This funding will assist in advancing our collaboration with researchers from Monash University over the next three years, to further understand the full potential of Starpharma’s proprietary dendrimers in improving drug delivery,” said Dr Jackie Fairley, CEO of Starpharma. “This research has the potential to significantly improve the treatment of diseases, including metastatic cancer, lymphoma, HIV and metastitial tuberculosis.”
Professor Chris Porter, lead researcher and Associate Dean of Research at MIPS, said the technology has particular implications for the treatment of diseases which are spread via the lymphatics and lymph nodes.
“Our work so far suggests that careful design of the size and surface characteristics of certain dendrimers provides an opportunity to boost delivery to the lymphatic system, signalling the potential to significantly improve patient treatment,” Professor Porter explained. “This Linkage grant provides an excellent opportunity to explore these issues in detail and to advance the development of targeted therapeutics”.
The ability to target therapeutics in this way has the potential to enhance efficacy and reduce side effects and toxicity of treatments. The approach also prolongs the lifetime of the drug in question by slowing the process of drug breakdown. This maximises the opportunities for the drug to reach the relevant sites in the body before being cleared by the body’s natural mechanisms.
The delivery method relies on dendrimer technology. Dendrimers are precisely defined biofriendly molecules 3-10 nanometres in diameter. They are approximately spherical in shape with a surface which has many different sites to which drugs and other functional groups may be attached, allowing optimisation of how the drug interacts with the body.
Starpharma Holdings Limited (ASX:SPL, OTCQX:SPHRY) is a world leader in the development of dendrimer technology for pharmaceutical, life-science and other applications. SPL has two operating companies, Starpharma Pty Ltd in Melbourne, Australia and DNT, Inc in the USA. Products based on SPL’s dendrimer technology are already on the market in the form of diagnostic elements and laboratory reagents through licence arrangements with partners including Siemens and Merck KgA.
The Company’s lead pharmaceutical development product is VivaGel® (SPL7013 Gel), a vaginal microbicide designed to prevent the transmission of STIs, including HIV and genital herpes. In September 2008 Starpharma signed a full licence agreement with SSL International plc (LSE:SSL) to develop a VivaGel® coated condom. SSL manufactures and sells Durex® condoms, the market-leading condom brand worldwide.
Starpharma also has agreements in place with Lilly, Elanco, Stiefel Laboratories (a GSK Company), and Unilever as well as many research collaborations with some of the world’s leading organisations.