SYDNEY - Australian pharmaceutical firm F.H. Faulding & Co. Ltd. and a government research organization have developed an all-purpose drug-delivery system and are now looking for drugs to use with it.

As one immediate result of the joint effort, the two organizations have developed a treatment for the skin disease psoriasis that has proved effective in proof-of-principle human trials, Faulding executives said.

Faulding, of Adelaide, and a Sydney-based division of the government's Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO) have spent more than A$6 million over three years developing specialized lipids (fats) that can be modified to infiltrate selected types of cells.

Now the partners have agreed to spend an additional two years and an undisclosed amount of money to find therapeutics that can be linked to the lipids by technology already developed, to form a complete treatment.

In addition, CSIRO has filed four patents - one covering the “lipidation“ drug-delivery system, another covering the psoriasis treatment and two covering the use of lipidation in gene therapy.

The Faulding-CSIRO partners did not give many details last week about what treatments were being tested, but executives involved said a topical treatment for psoriasis known as Dermetrex has been tested in clinical trials.

Faulding's innovation director, Ian Pitman, said the company conducted a proof-of-principle trial involving 11 people with psoriasis, which proved to be successful.

He said the company has not done any tests of psoriasis in animal models because none exists - a major reason why no effective treatment has been developed.

Having proved the treatment can work in humans, Faulding is discussing licensing Dermetrex with several multinational pharmaceutical companies, which will then conduct all the required clinical trials, Pitman said.

Faulding's CEO, Ed Tweddell, said the company and CSIRO are looking at a number of treatments, with Faulding having a particular interest in the anticancer area as well as in products treating rheumatoid arthritis and damage from ionizing radiation.

The company also will seek partners to develop various treatments linked to the newly developed delivery technology, he said.

The lipidation technology involves tailoring the various “fingers“ of a lipid molecule so the molecule can slip through cell walls. Another key part of the technology is the molecule linking the lipid and the therapeutic agent.

Developed by scientists led by Bob Whittaker, a researcher with a part of the CSIRO now known as the division of molecular science, the lipidation technology is believed to be widely adaptable.

Besides the treatment areas mentioned above, the technology will be investigated for ulcerative colitis. The partners said it also shows promise in delivering genes into cells. *