A partnership for research excellence

Phylogica founder Adjunct Professor Paul Watt

Phylogica founder Adjunct Professor Paul Watt

A partnership between Western Australia’s leading children’s medical research organisation, the Telethon Kids Institute, and its spin-off company Phylogica Pty Ltd, is delivering outstanding drug discovery results.

The institute, which has its roots and a continuing close relationship with Western Australia’s Princess Margaret Hospital for Children, established Phylogica in 2001 to commercialise world-changing prototype drug discoveries involving peptides, which are mini proteins.

Phylogica listed on the ASX in 2005 and has more than delivered on its early promise. The company has filed 18 patents for its new class of peptides and patents have been granted in major jurisdictions such as the United States and Europe.

The company’s IP and library of hundreds of billions of unique peptide compounds, known as Phylomers are a very valuable resource for the world’s pharmaceutical companies. Phylogica has signed licence deals worth over $9 million with Roche, Pfizer, Janssen Biotech (Johnson & Johnson), Medimmune (AstraZeneca), Cubist (now owned by Merck) and Genentech (part of the Roche group).

“Phylogica is developing early-stage prototype drugs which we then license to the pharmaceutical industry so they can continue to develop them into drugs which we hope will ultimately help patients,” says Phylogica founder Adjunct Professor Paul Watt.

“The aim is to generate more targeted and powerful drugs for diseases such as cancer, that have fewer toxic side effects, than for example, chemotherapy which can be particularly damaging for children.

“Phylogica has the world’s most structurally diverse library of high-quality peptide drugs and the pharmaceutical industries are coming to us to access it. We are obviously doing something right as big companies, such as Genentech and Roche, are coming back to us for more.”

Phylogica has also recently developed the world’s most efficient source of peptides which can enable ‘smart’ drugs to penetrate patients’ cells, resulting in new commercial deals worth millions of dollars in upfront payments and hundreds of millions of dollars in potential milestones and royalties in the future.

Mutual benefits

The research partnership between the Telethon Kids Institute and Phylogica is providing great benefits to both parties.

Phylogica contracts the institute as a research partner and 22 institute scientists work on the Phylogica contract.

Professor Watt, who is the Phylogica board’s chief scientific adviser and the Telethon Kids Institute’s Director of Research Services and Innovation, says Phylogica’s commercial focus has “grown the research cultures” of both the company and the institute.

“Our institute scientists are being exposed to the demands and rigours of commercial pharmaceutical research where confidentiality, safeguarding propriety materials and diligent record keeping need to be of a very high standard.

“Phylogica also benefits, as it gets to collaborate with an institute which is very well-equipped and has excellent access to critical patient biobanks, cell lines and bioinformatics.”

Phylogica has raised more than $48 million in private investment since 2005, in addition to more than $10 million of research support from the National Health and Medical Research Council; National Institutes of Health, USA; an Australian Government commercialisation grant; and the Australian Research Council.

To drive innovation and business growth, the Australian Government is supporting better links between research institutions and industry. The government’s annual National Survey of Research Commercialisation collects data on how Australia’s publicly funded research system collaborates with industry to transfer knowledge and commercialise research.

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