BioWorld International Correspondent

LONDON - Australia's leading cancer researchers are joining forces with the technology commercialization arm of the charity Cancer Research UK, to create an Anglo-Australian powerhouse for the discovery and development of small-molecule oncology products.

The Cooperative Research Centre for Cancer Therapeutics (CRC-CT) will be funded with an A$37.6 million (US$29 million) grant from the Australian government and A$148 million from the participants. That will provide seven years of money for the new entity, which will be based at the Walter and Eliza Hall Institute in Melbourne, Victoria.

"We are very happy that the Australian partners approached us to provide the commercialization skills," Keith Blundy, chief operating officer of Cancer Research Technology Ltd (CRT), told BioWorld International. "We can provide international access to commercialization, with good routes to biotech companies across Europe, and with our subsidy in Boston, to North America."

The Australian members of CRC-CT include eight research institutes, plus two companies, Bionomics Ltd of Adelaide, and Millipore/Chemicon Corp of Sydney. CRC-CT will operate as a limited company, with each partner holding a share of the equity. CRT has put cash into the formation of CRC-CT, the first time the charity has made such an investment outside the UK. CRC-CT will have an independent scientific advisory board, and an internal Scientific Coordination Committee that will decide which projects to take on from member institutes.

"CRT will be involved in that, and in deciding go-no/go on programs as they advance, as well as deciding which things to take into commercialization and when," Blundy said.

It also is possible that there will be flows of research from CRC-CT to CRT's laboratories in London, or vice versa, if either finds itself with capacity constraints.

Over the seven year span of the initial funding, the ambition is to progress seven to eight candidates to the point where they can be outlicensed. The research will focus on anti-angiogenesis, preventing the spread of metastases, adjunctive treatments to minimize the side effects of radio- and chemotherapy, and ways of overcoming tumor resistance to chemotherapy.

Australia's public sector invests A$150 million per year on cancer research. The chairman-elect of CRC-CT, Dick Fox, said, "The creation of CRC-CT provides a catalyst for [translating that] into new therapies. Our goal is to use [CRT's] experience to develop a sustainable development and commercialization company for cancer therapeutics to benefit Australians in the long term."