New asthma treatments on the horizon

Feb 22 2013

The introduction of new treatments for asthma and other respiratory diseases is a step closer with the signing of an exclusive license agreement to develop and commercialise new classes of drugs.

Newcastle Innovation Ltd has joined leading drug developer Proteologics Ltd to translate the recent discovery of the molecular signals generated in the early stages of respiratory diseases into novel therapies.

Through a comprehensive gene expression analysis, University of Newcastle researchers* identified the protein Midline-1 as a new target that regulates airway inflammation and stimulates virus and allergy induced asthma by inhibiting protein phosphatase 2A activity. The findings were published in the January 2013 issue of Nature Medicine.

The potential advantage of the development of a small molecular inhibitor of Midline-1 is that it would be non-steroidal, therefore overcoming the increasing resistance to current steroid-based and other anti-inflammatory asthma treatments. 
CEO of Proteologics Josh Levine said the company was excited about the prospects of this significant achievement.

“We are pleased to join Newcastle Innovation, together with the University’s world class researchers, to jointly develop therapeutics based on this novel target,” Mr Levine said. “Asthma represents a large unmet medical need as there is currently no cure to treat the underlying causes of respiratory disease. Together we hope to develop a treatment that could help patients suffering from this debilitating illness.”

The World Health Organisation estimates around 300 million people worldwide are affected by asthma. While treatments exist to control or reduce symptoms, the disease still remains under-treated due to the limitations of existing drugs such as steroid overuse, under-diagnosis and patient non-compliance.

Newcastle Innovation CEO Dr Brent Jenkins said the agreement was a great example of the groundbreaking research at the University of Newcastle.

“The agreement with Proteologics marks a significant milestone in the evolution of laboratory discovery to proof-of-concept and the development of effective new drugs,” Dr Jenkins said. “We are proud of the achievement of the research team to date and are confident new treatments will be available in the near future.”

Proteologics is a leading drug discovery company focussed on small molecule inhibitors of the ubiquitin system – the small regulatory proteins found in almost all human tissue. 2004 Nobel Laureates for the discovery of the ubiquitin system Professors Avram Hershko and Aaron Ciechanover lead Proteologics’ Scientific Advisory Board.

Newcastle Innovation Ltd is the technology transfer company of the University of Newcastle and facilitates the transfer of knowledge, technology and scientific research from the University to commercial partners.

*The research team was led by Professor Joerg Mattes, Chair of Paediatrics and Child Health at the University of Newcastle, Australia. Professor Mattes leads the Experimental and Translational Respiratory group at the Hunter Medical Research Institute’s (HMRI) VIVA program and is as a Respiratory Paediatrician at the John Hunter Children’s Hospital. HMRI is a partnership between the University of Newcastle, Hunter New England Local Health Network and the Community.

Researchers from the University of Sydney, the University of Cincinnati and the Imperial College London also took part.