Traditional drug discovery methods use animals such as rats, mice and primates to evaluate safety and efficacy of new neural drug candidates. This approach has resulted in a failure rate of 99.8% of human clinical trials testing new drugs for neurological disease.
To address this significant unmet need, Tessara Therapeutics is commercialising their RealBrain® platform of advanced three-dimensional (3D) in vitro models that much more closely represent human neural physiology. RealBrain® models feature human cells in 3D architecture with functional neural networks. As a result of these features, Tessara’s RealBrain® models more accurately predict the responses of human brain tissue in a highly scalable and reproducible way.
Additionally, the RealBrain® platform enables faster identification of better drug candidates, de-risks drug development and reduces the use of animals in research.
Creating a reliable model of human brain tissue is a major scientific challenge. The RealBrain® model cultures neural precursor cells in a hydrogel that mimics the intricate micro-environment of the brain. A hydrogel is a class of biomaterial that forms a unique biocompatible 3D polymeric substance that can act as a scaffold to mechanically support cell cultures in complex shapes. Tessara sought CSIRO support to identify and chemically optimise a biocompatible hydrogel for the RealBrain®, while also investigating manufacturing protocols compatible with large scale drug discovery.
Tessara’s visionary goals in tissue engineering required collaborating with experts in polymeric biomaterials chemistry and cell biology, which was precisely the expertise existing within CSIRO.
Through the Kick-Start program, Tessara was matched with Dr Charlotte Williams, Dr Carmel O’Brien and Dr Tim Hughes to address the biomaterial, biological and manufacturing challenges associated with this project.
The complementary CSIRO teams provided invaluable advice and scientific input relating to chemical composition, synthesis and purification, manufacturing optimisation and characterisation of the cell-based models. Through two Kick-Start projects and several subsequent engagements, CSIRO provided Tessara with a solid technical foundation that was essential for subsequent scale-up and commercialisation.
With support from the Kick-Start program, Tessara identified and optimised composition, synthesis, purification and quality control (QC) protocols for the biomaterials and delivered important cellular characterisation data for the final cell-based models.
These insights validated the suitability of Tessara’s product development strategy and provided the basis for early collaborative projects with commercial partners in the pharmaceutical industry.
The results generated with CSIRO also helped Tessara obtain seed capital of $2.7M to continue accelerating drug discovery for neurological diseases.
CSIRO’s Kick-Start program truly lived up to its name and has helped Tessara deliver human 3D brain models that accurately recapitulate human neurophysiology, without complex or lengthy protocols.
— Dr Christos Papadimitriou, Tessara Therapeutics CEO and Managing Director.
The CSIRO Biomedical Manufacturing Program supports Australian Biotech companies such as Tessara Therapeutics, in their growth strategies – working with our Kick-Start program, CSIRO has been able to even further assist Tessara Therapeutics to grow and develop their RealBrain® technology to the next exciting stages.
— Dr Charlotte Williams, CSIRO Principal Research Scientist and Project Leader for Tessara’s Kick-Start projects.