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Mental health, malaria and obesity in line of sight for National Drug Discovery Centre

27 January 2023
Three exciting research projects have been awarded generous Australian Government subsidies to fast-track their discoveries into new medicines using the National Drug Discovery Centre (NDDC).

The centre provides researchers in Australia with access to the latest in advanced robotic high-throughput screening to enable patients to potentially benefit from novel treatments sooner.

The three new projects will focus on finding new treatments for a range of diseases including malaria, obesity and mental health disorders such as addiction and depression.

The subsidies cover 90 per cent of the cost of using the National Drug Discovery Centre, reducing the cost of a traditional screening campaign – normally upwards of $300,000 – to around $30,000–$45,000. 

At a glance 

  • Three new research projects have been announced as beneficiaries of Australian Government subsidies to access the National Drug Discovery Centre, an important step towards the development of new medicines.
  • The projects will use the centre’s advanced robotic high-throughput screening technologies to improve treatments for a range of diseases including malaria, obesity and mental health disorders such as addiction and depression.

New therapies for patient treatment

(L-R) Lead researchers from the three successful research projects in round 6 of NDDC subsidies: Associate Professor Sheena McGowan, Monash University; Dr Darren Riddy, Monash Institute of Pharmaceutical Sciences; Professor Chris Langmead, Deputy Director of the Neuromedicines Discovery Centre and Better Medicines Theme Leader at the Monash Institute of Pharmaceutical Sciences.

Working closely with the NDDC, principal investigator Associate Professor Sheena McGowan and her team at Monash University aim to discover inhibitors of a critical malarial enzyme. Their novel approach offers a route to new antimalarial medicines, which are urgently needed to respond to the problem of emerging drug-resistance. Malaria infects more than 200 million people each year and the spread of drug-resistant parasites threatens the effectiveness of current treatments.

Dr Darren Riddy leads a multidisciplinary team from Monash Institute of Pharmaceutical Sciences in a research program to find new treatments for obesity and related metabolic disorders. Currently, injectable peptides show efficacious weight loss in obese patients. Dr Riddy’s team aims to develop oral medications, which will offer radically greater convenience for patients, as well as improved tolerability and manufacturing and cost benefits. 

Professor Chris Langmead, Deputy Director of the Neuromedicines Discovery Centre and Better Medicines Theme Leader at the Monash Institute of Pharmaceutical Sciences, is working with a diverse team of scientists to identify new treatments for mental health disorders including addiction and depression. As an internationally recognised expert in neuroscience drug discovery, Professor Langmead’s innovative strategy is specifically designed to avoid critical pitfalls of current approved and investigative treatments, which are affected by variable patient responses and unwanted side-effects.

Subsidised project selection

All subsidy applications are reviewed and selected by a National Steering Committee – an independent panel of drug discovery experts from around Australia.

We are grateful for the contribution that these experts make to help ensure that the most promising Australian research projects receive the support they need to begin translating their biological discoveries into new medicines to treat disease.

Find out more

If you are considering making an application for a subsidised screen, or if you simply want more information about what the NDDC offers, we encourage you to discuss your project with us prior to submission. Contact the NDDC.

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