The majority of the 150,000 Australians diagnosed with cancer every year will be treated with drugs developed over 25 years ago that can cause severe side-effects.
While scientists have uncovered many of the drivers of cancer, about 80% of all disease-causing proteins have been considered “undruggable”.
With new targeted protein degrader technology, researchers can create next-generation cancer medicines as well as treatments for many illnesses that were previously thought to be untreatable.
The ACTT – a collaboration between experts from WEHI, the Children’s Cancer Institute and Monash University – is the first research centre of its kind in Australia, focusing on the development of targeted protein degrader medicines and technology.
WEHI acting director, Professor Alan Cowman AC, said the centre would help kickstart a new biotech industry for Australia, establishing the nation as a leader in this frontier technology.
“Targeted protein degrader technology is one of the most exciting advances in drug discovery and development, with the potential to make a transformative impact,” Prof Cowman said.
“By bringing together a team of leading scientists and clinicians, and establishing a highly skilled workforce, the ACTT will enable Australia to become a major player in this pioneering technology.
“The COVID-19 pandemic revealed a vulnerability in Australia due to our lack of sovereign capability in drug discovery and development.
“The ACTT will help to bridge the critical gap between discovery and translation, a vital investment that will strengthen the nation’s ability to develop innovative drugs against current and future health threats.”
With further investment, the centre has the potential to deliver significant revenue into Australia through co-development and licensing deals.
The MRFF Frontier Health and Medical Research initiative funding will enable research to validate promising drug development targets identified for neuroblastoma and prostate cancer treatments, positioning these research programs for progression towards clinical trials.
The ACTT platform will also be used to broaden the range of proteins – and diseases – that can be targeted by protein degrader technology.