This Sydney-based pharmaceutical research company teamed up with cardiovascular inflammation and fibrosis specialist, Dr Ben Rayner from the Faculty of Medicine at the University of Sydney, through a STEM+ Business project looking to fast track drug discovery.

Challenge

Cardiovascular disease is a leading cause of death in Australia, with the vast majority of deaths due to ischaemic heart disease, or coronary artery disease.

Sydney based Pharmaxis Ltd is a pharmaceutical research company focussed on the treatment of inflammatory diseases, with a portfolio of products at various stages of development and approval. Pharmaxis has developed an inhibitor platform and identified several attractive drug targets for effectively treating the burden of long-term heart disease.

In order to progress to pre-clinical development and Phase 1 trials, Pharmaxis needed to tap into specific scientific expertise in the design, execution and interpretation of animal models of cardiac diseases.

Solution

Familiar with extensive research and development of new technologies, Pharmaxis has had its own research labs since 2007 and has collaborated with many Australian academic institutions over the years. Through the STEM+ Business program, the SME Connect team matched Pharmaxis with Dr Ben Rayner, a Senior Research Fellow working within the Faculty of Medicine at the University of Sydney. Ben’s position as a Postdoctoral Research Officer within the Inflammation Group at the Heart Research Institute made him an excellent candidate for a STEM+ Business project with Pharmaxis. Ben’s outstanding knowledge of cardiovascular inflammation and fibrosis was of particular interest to Pharmaxis.

The STEM+ Business collaborative project aimed to use Ben’s expertise to test the ability of Pharmaxis’ novel inhibitors, translating in vivo models to human diseases. The ultimate goal was to develop novel inhibitors that can provide the most efficient treatment of ischaemia-induced heart disease.

Results

The results from the STEM+ Business program provided further support for the progression of lead compounds into pre-clinical development and eventually into clinical Phase 1 studies.

For Ben, the program has presented an opportunity to gain an in depth understanding of all aspects involved in the drug discovery process. Ben has participated in relevant program meetings and has been involved in the decision making processes progressing drug development. In addition, he has benefited from an ongoing mentorship with Pharmaxis Head of Drug Discovery, Dr. Wolfgang Jarolimek. Through the program Ben has received the invaluable support and opportunity required to progress his research passion to the next logical step, a partnership with industry.

“The program has provided Pharmaxis with important data in pre-clinical models it requires to progress its compounds but did not have the expertise to generate on its own. More importantly it helped to build a strong relation with an excellent academic institute in Sydney and have benefited from the close interaction with an excellent scientist.”

— Wolfgang Jarolimek, Head of Drug Discovery at Pharmaxis

“There is an increasing paradigm shift in thinking within scientific research towards bridging the gap that has historically existed between academia and industry. The collaboration that I have enjoyed with Pharmaxis, through the STEM+ Business program, has not only yielded definitive results in the laboratory but has also has broadened my understanding and outlook as a scientist.”

— Ben Rayner, Researcher, Heart Research Institute

This program is supported by the Science and Industry Endowment Fund (SIEF) .

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For further information and to apply, please get in touch with our dedicated STEM+ Business Manager.

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