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Australian research startup will target autoimmune and inflammatory disease

Posted February 19, 2013

Helmedix Pty Ltd has been established with a $1.25 million investment to develop treatments for autoimmune and inflammatory diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis, psoriasis and multiple sclerosis.

Based on research from University of Technology Sydney (UTS) ithree institute and funded by Australia’s Medical Research Commercialisation Fund (MRCF), this new biotech will focus on developing therapeutic peptide drugs to prevent and treat diseases which affect millions of people globally.

The ithree Institute research team led by Dr. Sheila Donnelly has identified a number of immune modulating peptides derived from helminth parasites, one of which is effective in suppressing the inflammatory response of the host and has shown therapeutic potential in a mouse model of type 1 diabetes.  The immune modulating activity of these peptides indicates potential broader application in a variety other autoimmune diseases.

The MRCF has committed AU$1.25 million to progress lead optimisation and pre-clinical development of the immune modulating peptides over the next two years. Subject to meeting milestones, Helmedix will seek further investment or industry partnerships, to move the helminth-derived peptides through clinical development as a treatment for autoimmune and inflammatory diseases.

Stephen Thompson, Director of Helmedix and Partner at Brandon Capital the venture capital firm that manages the MRCF said, “Helmedix is an example of the type of early stage opportunity that the MRCF is set up  to support. Its discoveries have broad potential to impact a number of autoimmune diseases and we look forward working with the team to progress the technology further towards commercial development.”

Professor Ian Charles, Director of the UTS ithree institute said the institute’s significant expertise in infectious diseases caused by bacteria, viruses and parasites was helping us understand how the helminth parasite evades the sophisticated immune defence systems of its host.

“Understanding the mechanism by which the helminth parasites can persist in their host by regulating the immune system, and applying these mechanisms to the development of therapeutics for the prevention or treatment of autoimmune and inflammatory diseases, has huge potential,” Professor Charles said.

“This is a great example of collaboration with industry on research that has the capacity to deliver real impact for society and improve the quality of life for millions of people around the world.”

This is the first investment by MRCF in technology emerging from the ithree institute. The institute was launched in 2010 and joined the MRCF in 2011. Commercialisation of ithree’s technology is managed by UTS’s commercialisation partner UniQuest, who led the effort to attract investment by MRCF into Helmedix.

The UTS research team consists of Dr Sheila Donnelly and Joyce To of the ithree institute, Professor Ann Simpson, Associate Professor Bronwyn O’Brien and Dr Andrew Hutchinson from the Centre for Health Technologies in collaboration with Professor John Dalton, McGill University and Dr Mark Robinson, Queen’s University Belfast.

Source: University of Technology Sydney

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