New plan to keep world-first drug discoveries in Australia
A groundbreaking new research centre in Melbourne is hoping to fast-track next-generation drugs while keeping world-first discoveries in Australia.
To be opened on Thursday at the Walter and Eliza Hall Institute, the National Drug Discovery Centre was aimed at bridging the so-called "valley of death" - the name given to the fact Australian scientists have to take their drug discoveries overseas to get them commercialised.
The first of its kind centre was designed to allow medical researchers to fast-track development of new drugs to treat common and rare diseases.
It was aimed at turning groundbreaking discoveries into new medicines faster.
The $75 million centre has been jointly funded by the state and federal governments.
It includes cutting-edge robotics equipment that will enable researchers to screen hundreds of thousands of chemicals and rapidly identify which ones can alter processes in the body implicated by a disease or condition.
The federal government will subsidise screening costs, cutting the expensive process from more than $300,000 to between $30,000 and $45,000.
Victorian health minister Jenny Mikakos described the centre as a "game-changer for Victoria's world-class researchers".
She said they now had the equipment they needed to turn their biomedical discoveries into new medicines sooner.
"It will combine specialist expertise with cutting-edge technology right here in Melbourne - and is also accessible to researchers from around Australia," she said.
Federal health minister Greg Hunt said it would help improve the quality of life for many Australians.
The first two recipients of the federal government subsidy will be projects to find new medicines for cancer immunotherapy and type 2 diabetes.
Olivia Newton-John Cancer Research Institute professor Matthias Ernst was aiming to uncover how to make cancer tumours less visible to the immune system and enhance the effect of anti-tumour immune therapies.
Associate professor Anthony Don from the Walter and Eliza Hall Institute aims to develop new drugs that reverse systemic insulin resistance that causes type 2 diabetes, without the side effect of weight gain commonly associated with most current drugs.