One of the greatest strengths of Australia’s CRC Program, now in its 28th year, is how it brings together research and commerce — bridging the gap between discovery research and industry-ready innovation — in the form of an innovative product. Here are three recent CRC-driven Australian innovative product success stories.
New cancer drug
A promising new cancer drug developed by Cancer Therapeutics CRC (CTx) has been licensed to Merck Sharp and Dohme Australia (MSD) in one of the largest preclinical deals in Australia’s medical history.
The drug offers hope for the treatment of a wide range of cancers, including lung and breast. The licensing deal is worth up to $700 million and 70% of payments will return to CTx — which includes CSIRO, Walter and Eliza Hall Institute, Monash University, Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre, Children’s Cancer Institute and Griffith University.
The drug is a PRMT5 inhibitor, with potential to treat both cancer and non-cancer blood disorders. PRMT5 (protein arginine methyltransferase 5) is an enzyme that protects against cancer-causing mutations. Abnormality in PRMT5 is linked to many cancers. MSD is not just developing and commercialising the PRMT5 inhibitors, but also funding an ongoing collaboration with CTx.
“What MSD realised was the background science here in Australia was such high quality, they continued to support it to help advance the development,” says Dr Warwick Tong, CEO of CTx.
One key to the success of the project was how CTx managed their intellectual property, says Tong. “It’s almost a cliché, but if you don’t own it you can’t sell it,” he explains.
Tong also believes it’s important to share the rewards. “We do lots of drug discovery projects and many of them will fail,” he says. “To benefit from commercial return, researchers need to have contributed to the CRC but not necessarily to the successful project.”
Australia’s first electric bus
The first Australian-designed and manufactured electric bus is now part of a Transit South Australia trial. The result of a partnership between the Automotive Australia CRC (Auto-CRC), Swinburne University of Technology and Bustec, the electric bus can travel at 80 km per hour and has batteries that can be charged to 80% in 10 minutes.
The ultra-modern interior includes electronics that report their own faults, as well as integrated electronics, making it possible to know where the bus is, how the driver is driving it and if anything is wrong during the trip.
This information can be used to improve the efficiency of the bus network and user experience, such as reporting traffic jams and advising users to take an alternative bus. The results from this trial are expected by the end of the year.
With Auto-CRC’s funding term completed, the Electric Vehicle (EV) Laboratory at Swinburne University is continuing the research, and is now developing an electric harvester in conjunction with the Malaysian Automotive Institute.
“We are also looking at linking with Indian manufacturers to use
the electric technology in India for harvesters, buses and cars,” says Professor Ajay Kapoor, Swinburne’s Pro Vice Chancellor for International Research Engagement and leader of the EV Laboratory.
Kapoor believes the whole innovative product development process should involve learning more about consumer needs.
“There is a big disconnect between what experts tell us consumers would like and what they actually would like,” he says.
One in four Australian children have tooth decay, while one in 25 Australians over 15 have no natural teeth at all. In 2012–2013, $8.7 billion was spent on dental care in Australia. Tooth decay occurs when bacteria attach to sugars from foods to make acid that softens and eats away tooth enamel. But now we can prevent it.
Your regular dentist-applied fluoride treatment is likely the result of breakthrough research by an Australian team who developed and commercialised ‘Tooth Mousse Plus’ through the Oral Health CRC (OH-CRC). This discovery helps reverse the damage decay can cause to teeth, by improving the absorption of fluoride.
The innovative product is based on a component found in dairy milk that hardens teeth — another Australian find and one that’s responsible for protecting the oral health of millions. The potential savings are estimated to be more than $12 billion in dental work to date worldwide.
Thirty years ago CEO of OH-CRC, Professor Eric Reynolds and his team at Melbourne University indentified that casein peptide complex (casein phosphopeptide amorphous calcium phosphate) found in dairy milk can strengthen and remineralise teeth.
The milk extract was developed into an innovative product called Recaldent, which is used in sugar-free gum and the Tooth Mousse product. “Recaldent took many years of research and support to develop but it is now in a range of products that benefit millions around the world,” says Reynolds.
Recaldent is patented by OH-CRC and is produced in Melbourne using Australian milk by GC Corporation, a Japanese company and OH-CRC partner. For his tireless work in inventing and commercialising Recaldent, Reynolds was awarded the 2017 Prime Minister’s Prize for Innovation.
The OH-CRC has also developed a vaccine for gum disease and is now working on its commercialision.