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Advancing drug discovery through skill sharing

A long-term collaboration between WEHI and CSL has set the foundation for the development of modern therapeutics. The partnership combines CSL’s experience in drug development with WEHI’s expertise in bioinformatics to provide a deeper understanding of biotherapies and patient populations.

CSL was established in Australia in 1916 to service the health needs of a nation isolated by war. In the years since, it has provided Australians with rapid access to 20th century medical advances including insulin and penicillin, and vaccines against influenza, polio, and other infectious diseases.

Combining skills expertise

CSL’s drug development experience, combined with WEHI’s expertise in bioinformatics, makes a formidable team.

Bioinformatics involves analysing gene sequences and expression using the latest software and technology platforms.

Associate Professor Matthew Ritchie is a leading expert in bioinformatics and is a laboratory head in the Epigenetics and Development division at WEHI. He said the collaboration between WEHI and CSL enabled skill sharing and expertise to advance drug discovery efforts.

“CSL has extensive experience in drug development and has been a terrific partner for WEHI,” Associate Professor Ritchie said.

“Being able to collaborate with a company like CSL helps to shape some of our research endeavours and has led to many co-publications. This demonstrates how effectively we work with each other and benefit from the partnership.”

In turn, Associate Professor Ritchie said WEHI was able to provide access to an experienced team of computational biologists and bioinformaticians, who provided specialist statistical analytical skills to CSL.

“WEHI has Australia’s largest team of computational biology researchers. This is an area of immense skill and expertise for WEHI. Our scientists provide novel data analysis methods to help CSL progress therapeutics to the clinic,” Associate Professor Ritchie said.

“We are also able to assist by providing expertise in single cell analysis, which uses genome-wide profiling via high-throughput sequencing to identify the impact of drugs on particular genes and pathways in different cell types.”

“The partnership allows CSL to tap into the state-of-the-art knowledge and expertise, reducing the time, energy and resources to find the innovative solutions they are after.”

Above: Associate Professor Matthew Ritchie

Uncovering potential therapeutic pathways

CSL Head of Global Research Data Science Dr Milica Ng said WEHI had contributed to many of its research projects.

“The ongoing partnership between CSL and WEHI has led to many combined publications and uncovered new actionable insights in therapeutic areas of interest,” she said.

“Ultimately, collaborations like the Bioinformatics Alliance with WEHI help us deliver on our promise to meet the future needs of patients in Australia and around the world.”

“WEHI’s extensive expertise in computational biology has been enormously beneficial and has contributed important innovation to our drug development pipeline.”

Fellowship program helps students gain industry insight

Associate Professor Ritchie said the agreement between WEHI and CSL supported joint PhD projects, where post-graduate students from WEHI could undertake research at CSL that combined cutting edge genomics technologies with advanced data analysis methods.

“These projects accelerate the development of new targeted therapies while providing PhD students with valuable experience working in industry,” he said.

“In addition to this, we have many PhD students who hold joint appointments with CSL where they bring their knowledge in data analysis to the data sets being generated by CSL and the research questions CSL has, which in many ways are similar to our research questions.

“This gives CSL a more targeted approach to their future clinical trials, based on the genomic information they can collate as part of the research programs.”

Fast-tracking therapeutics through collaboration

WEHI’s Head of Biotechnology and Commercialisation, Dr Anne-Laure Puaux, said the alliance with CSL provided opportunities to fast-track the development of therapeutics.

“CSL is brilliant to work with and has extensive experience in drug development,” she said.

“We are thrilled to be partnering with CSL and providing our expertise in bioinformatics to work towards developing new medical treatments.”

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Illuminate Autumn 2024
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