Innovative rheumatoid arthritis therapy receives backing from Janssen

January 16, 2012. 

Dendright, announced today that it has facilitated a strategic research collaboration agreement with Janssen-Cilag Pty Ltd in Australia, one of the Janssen pharmaceutical companies, to develop a promising treatment for a devastating immunological disease that affects millions of people around the world.

Under the agreement, Dendright Pty Ltd will receive an upfront seed grant to fund pre-clinical development of its treatment for rheumatoid arthritis (RA). Dendright remains wholly owned by UniQuest. No other terms of the deal were disclosed.

The seed grant will help Professor Ranjeny Thomas and her team at the UQ Diamantina Institute pursue a new treatment for RA, which may also apply to other autoimmune diseases such as type 1 diabetes and multiple sclerosis.

In 2011, Professor Thomas was a plenary speaker at the prestigious American College of Rheumatology Conference in Chicago and a finalist in the Health category of the Australian Innovation Challenge Awards for her research towards a vaccine for RA.

RA is caused by immune system dysfunction and affects millions of people worldwide, destroying joints and causing cardiovascular complications that can reduce life spans by 10 years. Professor Thomas’ innovation targets the underlying cause of the disease.

UniQuest Managing Director, David Henderson, said the Dendright and Janssen collaboration represents another exciting example of Australian university researchers and international industry leaders combining resources and scientific expertise towards finding a solution for a global health problem.

“UniQuest has worked closely with Professor Thomas to protect and package the value of the intellectual property surrounding her discoveries into a commercial opportunity with significant clinical and market potential, ” Mr Henderson said. 

“The innovation has many developmental stages yet to pass before it might result in a therapeutic product on the market.  However, this funding and relationship milestone will support further research and the product optimisation required to prepare it for clinical trials.”

Dendright Pty Ltd was established in 2005 and assisted by grants from the Queensland Government’s Innovation Start-up Scheme and the Australian Government’s Biotechnology Innovation Fund so that Professor Thomas and her team could focus on finding a way for the body’s own immune system to “silence” the cells that cause autoimmune diseases. Professor Thomas’ research at the UQ Diamantina Institute has also been supported by Arthritis Queensland, a peak community organisation.

Professor Thomas said the strategic research collaboration and seed grant from Janssen provided more than just financial backing to her team.

“We are delighted to be collaborating with Janssen. It means we can tap into their scientific expertise, which will add another dimension to our clinical research, to Dendright’s product development program and to the knowledge we can impart to students working with us at the UQ Diamantina Institute,” Professor Thomas said.

“It’s rewarding on many levels to have an industry partner join us on this journey.”

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