Monthly Archives: February 2019

Polyactiva and

PolyActiva logo

Proud Precinct Partners, Polyactiva attended the recently Ophthalmology conference in Chicago, USA discussing the future of eyecare treatment and recent developments, and their early stage gamechanging projects.  Eyewire TV caught up with them for a brief chat.


To watch all of the discussions with eyewrite: 

More information about Polyactiva:

The company began operation in February 2010 and since its formation has secured in excess of AU$10 million of investment.

A Series A investment was secured in January 2011 and a AU$9.2 million Series B investment was made in January 2013. The Series B investment was made by a syndicate of investors including Medical Research and Commercialisation Fund (MRCF) and Brandon Biosciences Fund 1 (BBF1) – both managed by Brandon Capital Partners, and Yuuwa – managed by Yuuwa Capital.

PolyActiva’s platform technology is used to deliver drugs to specific sites in the body with control over the rate of drug delivery for up to 12-months. The technology involves formation of a polymeric prodrug of the target drug, which in turn is the sole component used to produce the administered product. The product administered to the site can take various forms, including rod-shaped implants, injectable gels, and topical film. The technology enables product with high dose loads, which means sufficient drug can be carried in products of a very small size and still delivery therapeutic daily doses to the therapeutic site over extended periods. All of our products are designed to biodegrade after the treatment period, and leave no residue. As a consequence, PolyActiva’s delivery technology is very well suited to delivery at site of the body that have limited volumes (e.g. the eye). With the PolyActiva technology, exceptional zero-order release profiles are achieved over treatment periods ranging from 1 to 12 months. The process by which we manufacture our products is robust, scalable, and can be adapted to existing device component production processes. PolyActiva has built a number of products with drug candidates from different drug classes and with different linkage points, demonstrating the plasticity of the technology.

We have also developed a number of functional co-monomers and polymer segments, which modularises the production of the final polymeric prodrug. Analogous to a set of Lego®, we now have the various building blocks from which we can select to build the preferred polymer prodrug. Animal studies are now complete for our first two ocular products and work towards clinical development has been initiated.

The company is headquartered at Queen Street, Melbourne, with research facilities at Monash Institute of Pharmaceutical Sciences, 381 Royal Parade, Parkville, Melbourne.

The company has secured a world-class team of more than 10 staff that provide the core chemistry and development capabilities. We also have established relationships with key research service providers including MIPS, University of Melbourne, CERA, MSU, Bolder BioPATH, Institute of Bone and Joint Research, and Miguel Hernandez University who provide capabilities in pharmaceutical chemistry, polymer chemistry, ophthalmology and animal models.

‘Killer’ immune cells provide solution to elusive universal flu vaccine

Two scientists inspect some images in the light

Researchers from the Peter Doherty Institute for Infection and Immunity (Doherty Institute) and Monash University have identified immune cells, called killer T cells that can fight all influenza viruses – A, B and C  – creating the potential for the development of a world-first universal, one-shot flu vaccine.

Two scientists inspect some images in the light

The extraordinary breakthrough made by University of Melbourne PhD student, Marios Koutsakos of the Doherty Institute, was published today in Nature Immunology and is a paradigm-shifting discovery, which could lead to an influenza vaccine that does not need to be updated annually.

Previous research has shown that these killer T cells are present in an immune response to some but not all the influenza viruses – making this discovery a game-changer in the development of a universal vaccine.

“Influenza viruses continuously mutate to evade recognition by our immune system, and they are vastly diverse, making it nearly impossible to predict and vaccinate against the strain that will cause the next influenza pandemic,” Mr Koutsakos said.

“We have identified the parts of the virus that are shared across all flu strains, and sub-strains capable of infecting humans, and then investigated if we could find robust responses to those viral parts in healthy humans, and influenza-infected adults and children.”

University of Melbourne Professor Katherine Kedzierska, study leader and laboratory head at the Doherty Institute, said this was an exciting discovery that clearly revealed killer T cells provide unprecedented immunity across all flu viruses, a key component of a potential universal vaccine.

“Influenza B immunology particularly has remained largely understudied because it doesn’t have pandemic potential. However, it is a serious virus that can lead to death and severe illness, mostly in children, and was one of the missing pieces of the universal flu protection puzzle,” Professor Kedzierska said.

The team now has a patent on the discoveries, which will enable them to develop a universal influenza vaccine approach to reduce the impact of pandemic and seasonal influenza around the world.

Mr Koutsakos and his colleagues in Professor Kedzierska’s laboratory at the Doherty Institute worked with cutting-edge technology in collaboration with Professor Anthony Purcell from the Monash Biomedicine Discovery Institute, to identify these common viral targets for killer T cells.

The Purcell laboratory is at the forefront of epitope discovery using mass spectrometry. [1]

“It has been particularly beneficial to combine our expertise with the influenza team at the Doherty Institute, to help map cross-strain reactive epitopes. This work highlights the underlying power and versatility of the mass spectrometry approach, and we are excited about the future potential of these epitopes in the development of universal vaccines,” Professor Purcell said.

In addition to the experiments of the human immune system to prove the killer T cell commonality across all flu strains, something that has never been done before, the research team conducted vaccination tests to demonstrate the protective capacity of killer T cells.

“Our immunisation studies with the peptide responsible for activating the killer T cells revealed remarkably reduced levels of flu virus and inflammation in the airways,” Mr Koutsakos said.

These killer T cells are found in over half the world’s population. Professor Kedzierska’s group is now researching immunity in high-risk ethnic groups including Indigenous Australians and Indigenous Alaskans who might not share the same immune response as those investigated by this project.

“Now this groundwork has been done, we can apply similar technologies and approaches to those high-risk populations that flu has a huge impact on, so we can offer protection to everyone,” Professor Kedzierska said.

This research was a collaboration between the Doherty Institute (including the Department of Microbiology and Immunology, the University of Melbourne, and the WHO Collaborating Centre for Reference and Research on Influenza, the Royal Melbourne Hospital), with scientists from Monash University; St Jude Children’s Research Hospital, Memphis; Seqirus; St Vincent’s Institute; The Alfred Hospital; the Royal Melbourne Hospital; University of New South Wales; and Garvan Institute.

[1] Mass spectrometry is the very sensitive measurement of the mass and structural characteristics of small biological molecules including the peptides that define T cell epitopes.

This article appears courtesy of our proud precinct partner, the Doherty Institute

Digital Tools Bring Cancer Trials To All Victorians

External photograph of the VCCC building in the Melbourne Biomedical Precinct

More people from rural and regional Victoria with cancer will access clinical trials closer to home using the teletrial model with digital technology, thanks to a $1.5 million Andrews Labor Government funding boost.

Minister for Health Jenny Mikakos today announced the launch of the Victorian Comprehensive Cancer Centre’s (VCCC) Teletrials Program in Bendigo and Albury Wodonga, which will extend to other parts of regional Victoria.

Clinical trials are the gateway to accessing cutting-edge cancer therapies but fewer than five per cent of Victorians outside Melbourne participate in them due to the need for travel and time away from home.

external photograph of the VCCC building in the Melbourne Biomedical Precinct

The VCCC Teletrials Program has built partnerships between metropolitan and regional centres to help more Victorians access trials run by leading cancer hospitals such as the Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre.

Teletrials are part of the Labor Government’s $20 million funding boost to increase the number of cancer trials being run in Victoria.

On top of the Teletrials Program, $3.7 million has been granted for four new projects to help more than 6,000 patients access world-leading trials through the VCCC Investigator-Initiated Trial Capacity Building Program.

The four projects focus on improving radiotherapy before surgery, pain management, combining treatments to enhance success of blood stem cell transplantation and better anaesthetics during surgery.

Recent data shows that in 2017, 34,557 Victorians were diagnosed with cancer and 10,955 died from the disease – with 95 new diagnoses each day.

Victoria has some of the best cancer survival rates in the world – it’s a testament to our proud track record of investing in world-class cancer prevention, treatment and research. The five-year survival rate for Victorians diagnosed with cancer has increased from 46 per cent in 1982 to 68 per cent in 2016.

The article appears courtesy of the Minister for Health, Victorian Government

BioCurate partnership set to bridge the biomedical translation gap

BioCurate Logo

BioCurate has welcomed the Federal Government’s announcement today that the company’s partnership with MTPConnect, UniQuest, and the Medical Device Partnering Program (MDPP) will operate the $22.3 million Biomedical Translation Bridge (BTB) Program.

The BTB program forms part of the Federal Government’s Medical Research Future Fund and aims to help early stage health and medical research ventures reach proof-of-concept stage.

BioCurate CEO Dr Glenn Begley said today’s announcement was an acknowledgement of the leadership and vision demonstrated by Monash University and the University of Melbourne, and the long-term support by the Victorian State Government. Their shared goal was to build research-translation and early commercialisation capability. It also recognises BioCurate’s deep industry-experience in drug development.
Through the BTB partnership, BioCurate and UniQuest – the University of Queensland’s expert translational facility – will together assess and recommend eligible ventures for funding in the area of therapeutics, and MDPP will do the same for medical devices.

A key feature of the Program is the provision of expert advice, education and mentoring to those preparing applications and those awarded funding. Successful applicants will receive hands-on guidance, mentoring and project management advice throughout the life of the Program, leveraging the industry and commercialisation experience of BioCurate and our partners.

MTPConnect, a not-for-profit organisation formed to accelerate the growth of Australia’s medical technology, biotechnology and pharmaceutical sector, will administer the program.

Dr Moss, CEO of UniQuest said, “In this partnership with MTPConnect and BioCurate we’ll draw on UniQuest’s commercialisation and drug discovery expertise to help develop Australian technologies to the stage where they can attract further capital and support, bridging the funding gap and giving the country’s ground-breaking medical research the best opportunity to create change in the lives of people in Australia and around the world.”
“BioCurate’s focus is working closely with researchers to address the barriers that limit the translation and commercialisation of their early stage research. The BioCurate team brings extensive ‘hands on’ international industry experience and we look forward to sharing our scientific and commercial expertise as part of the BTB Program” Dr Begley said.

About BioCurate
BioCurate is an independently operated joint venture of the University of Melbourne and Monash University, supported by the Victorian State Government. The Board is independently chaired by The Hon John Brumby
AO with CEO Dr C. Glenn Begley leading a team of industry-experienced commercial scientists and professional staff. Announced in June 2016, BioCurate’s founding universities are placed in the world’s top
ten in the therapeutic areas of immunology, oncology, paediatrics, neurosciences, and infectious diseases.

BioCurate aims to be a recognised global leader in the translation of basic medical research into human therapeutics. The Company offers a new model, designed to address the key challenges that limit the translation and commercialisation of biomedical and pharmaceutical research everywhere. Its purpose is to increase the clinical impact and patient benefit from research, regardless of whether or not there is any genuine commercial opportunity.

This article appears courtesy of our proud Precinct partner BioCurate.

Prof Sir John Savill appointed Executive Director to the MACH

Sir John Savill wears a blue tie and dark suit and smiles at the camera.
Sir John Savill

A message from Professor Shitij Kapur:

As Chair of the Executive Board of the Melbourne Academic Centre for Health (MACH) Board, I am pleased to announce the appointment of internationally-renowned clinician scientist Professor Sir John Savill as the new Executive Director for the advanced health research and translation centre.

John comes to the MACH from the University of Edinburgh where he serves as the Regius Professor of Medical Science. John joined the University of Edinburgh in 1998 and in that time has developed the university’s clinical medical research capacity to a point that it rivals Britain’s top universities, taking research income from £30m per annum to £230m today.

From 2002-2018, John was Vice Principal and Head of the College of Medicine and Veterinary Medicine at the University of Edinburgh. Alongside this role, he was also Chief Scientist in the Scottish Government Health Directorates from 2008–2010 and Chief Executive at the Medical Research Council (MRC) from 2010–2018 where he was responsible to the UK Parliament for expenditure of around £800m per year. John played crucial roles in establishing the six-partner Francis Crick Institute in London, guiding the collaboration of 10 funders to create Health Data Research UK, and driving forward formation of the multi-site three-partner UK Dementia Research Institute to support the personal interest of then Prime Minister David Cameron.

John practised as a consultant in renal medicine and acute medicine and developed his research interest into the molecular processes of inflammation, with his most influential work being on mechanisms by which scavenger cells recognise and safely clear cells being eliminated by programmed death (apoptosis). As Principal Investigator, he has secured more than £25m in competitive research grants, supervised more than 40 PhD students, post-doctoral fellows and clinical fellows and published more than 100 research papers, 47 of which have been cited over 100 times and three over 1000 times. John was knighted in 2008 for services to clinical science and was elected Fellow of the Academy of Medical Sciences and Fellow of the Royal Society, amongst many other honours.  

In his new role of Executive Director, John will provide strategic oversight and operational management to the MACH as it works with its partners to assist the translation of research into improved healthcare delivery that results in enhanced patient and community outcomes. In addition, John will also play an important role in coordinating the response of MACH partners to major MRFF initiatives. The MACH Board is delighted to have attracted someone of John’s calibre to Melbourne and we look forward to him building upon the momentum gained under the leadership of Professor Cheryl Jones and Interim Executive Director Professor David Story.

University of Melbourne Vice Chancellor, Professor Duncan Maskell, said: “Professor Sir John Savill is a leading figure in the global medical research community and I am delighted that he has been appointed as the new Executive Director of the MACH. Through his knowledge and experience, Sir John will make a significant contribution to the organisation.”

Professor Richard Fox, Chair of the MACH Council, said: “John is a highly-regarded and influential figure in promoting research excellence and we’re thrilled that he is bringing his expertise to Melbourne, helping to direct the future development of the MACH’s programs and fostering our important role at a national and international level.”

Of his new role, John says: “I am delighted to be joining the MACH team. All my experience tells me that this powerful collaboration is poised to marry world-leading health research with cutting-edge clinical practice and outstanding multi-professional training, with the result that patients in Victoria and further afield will benefit from tomorrow’s healthcare today.”

The MACH Board owes a debt of gratitude to Professor David Story, Interim Executive Director from November 2018 to July 2019, who has guided the MACH through this transition period with his considerable expertise, his great skill at building relationships and his characteristic good humour. David will continue as Interim Executive Director until John joins the MACH in July this year and I look forward to his continuing contributions. In the meantime, John can be reached at his local email

I would also like to take this opportunity to thank the MACH’s Deputy Director Dr Shane Huntington who will be returning to his substantive strategy role at the University of Melbourne’s Faculty of Medicine, Dentistry and Health Sciences. Shane has been instrumental to the establishment and development of the MACH. Working closely with former Dean Professor James Angus and the CEO of St Vincent’s Hospital Professor Patricia O’Rourke, Shane helped lay the foundations for the MACH, resulting in its formal recognition as an academic health science centre and subsequently attracting more than $8m in MRFF research funding. The MACH Board thanks Shane for his extensive contributions and the Faculty looks forward to his ongoing strategy work.

​ Warm regards,

Professor Shitij Kapur
Chair of the Executive Board, MACH
Dean, Faculty of Medicine, Dentistry and Health Sciences
Assistant Vice-Chancellor (Health)
University of Melbourne

This article appears courtesy of our proud precinct partner, MACH Australia