Sexually Transmitted Diseases
New Zealand's Industrial Research (IRL, Auckland) and Melbourne-based Starpharma received NZ$945,000 (about US$652,000 currently) in ANZBPF funding to develop carbohydrate (glyco-) dendrimer drugs for sexually transmitted diseases (STDs).
IRL is one of nine stand-alone companies under the aegis of the NZ government's Crown Research Institute. Like the other eight, IRL is government-owned but competes with other companies for research funds, notes Richard Furneaux, Ph.D., carbohydrate chemistry technology platform manager at IRL.
IRL's manufacturing unit, GlycoSyn, is providing expertise in drug design, synthesis, and manufacturing for Starpharma's topical antiviral compound SPL-7013, VivaGel, which is active against multiple STDs, including HIV, chlamydia, herpes simplex virus, hepatitis B, and human papilloma virus, according to the company.
VivaGel is a a water-based dendrimer microbicide. Dendrimers are large, complex biocompatible molecules built piece by piece, tiny balls with a dense network of branches that present a polyvalent array to receptors, explains Dr. Furneaux.
"VivaGel's dendrimers are like microscopic soccer balls with many hooks' that work like Velcro," he says.
The challenge in developing dendrimers as drugs is producing a single chemical entity, which is what IRL's expertise can accomplish, adds Dr. Furneaux.
Starpharma has completed a Phase I trial with VivaGel and is in the process of planning for expanded safety trials to begin next year. As the owner of only two cGMP facilities in New Zealand for small molecule drug production, IRL is looking to partner with other Australian and New Zealand companies to produce some of the other 80 small molecule drugs in development in both countries, Dr. Furneaux says.
IRL is also collaborating with the Albert Einstein School of Medicine (New York City) and BioCryst Pharmaceuticals (Birmingham, AL) for carbohydrate drug development.
Melbourne's Metabolic Pharmaceuticals and Auckland's Neuren Pharmaceuticals are using their NZ$635,000 (US$585,000) ANZBPF award to develop a drug for spinal cord injury or stroke, and multiple sclerosis.
Separately, Metabolic is developing drugs, neuroactive peptides, for obesity and pain, and Neuren is working on therapeutics for neuroprotection and metabolic disorders. Their collaboration focuses on developing a class of Neuren's neuroregenerative peptides (NRPs), to treat peripheral neuropathy, motor neuron disease, and brain and nerve repair following spinal cord injury.
"There are substantial synergies between our two companies," says Neuren CEO David Clarke. "We have complementary experience in protein chemistry and neural peptides, and overlapping interest and experience in growth hormone biology."
The NRPs are geared to markets other than those targeted by Neuren's Glypromate, which is in Phase II development for cardioprotection during coronary artery bypass graft surgery, and NNZ-566, a Glypromate analog in development for traumatic brain injury, and Metabolics' ACV-1 for neuropathic pain.
In August, Neuren announced positive results with NNZ-2566, in testing by the U.S. Department of Defense at the Walter Reed Army Institute of Research (Bethesda, MD). "Concerning collaborations, everyone thinks it's about science and business development," says Clarke. "But it's just as much about people." The collaboration with Metabolic works well because of a similarity in cultures and an ability to compromise, he notes.