Anonymous donor helps bridge the ‘valley of death’

A generous donation has helped one promising cancer drug overcome a critical hurdle on its pathway to the clinic.

Translating laboratory discoveries into treatments for patients is a complex and expensive process. At each stage of drug development there is the risk that the journey will not lead to a successful new therapy.

Drug discovery and the ‘valley of death’

There is limited government funding available for drug discovery research, and the high cost and risk can deter biotech and pharmaceutical companies from investing.

Medicinal chemist Professor Guillaume Lessene says these factors limit the ability of not-for-profit and academic research programs to undertake drug development research without an industry partner.

“The gap in funding for drug discovery and validation has led to this research being referred to as the ‘valley of death’”.

A new cancer treatment facing the valley of death

Professor Lessene’s research into a new cancer treatment was nearly stopped by the valley of death. His team had discovered a new drug that showed considerable promise as a treatment for people with cancer, but could not fund the next stage of research.

It was at this point that an anonymous donor decided to help the project continue. The donor has provided funding that will enable 12 months of further research on the potential new drug.

Bridging the valley step by step

The donation has allowed the team to investigate how this new drug blocks cancer growth.

“Once we know how the drug works, we will be able to explain better why the drug can stop cancer growth.”
– Professor Lessene

With this information, the next stage will be to progress the drug closer to patients, and potentially seek a commercial partner that may fund clinical trials.

“We are extremely grateful for the generosity of this donor, who has enabled an exciting project to continue, which we hope will one day benefit people with cancer,” Associate Professor Lessene said.

How you can help

To discuss how you can support drug discovery projects at the Institute, please contact Sally Elford on (03) 9345 2345 or elford.s@wehi.edu.au.

Ways you can support WEHI

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