New Pharma Partner for Eskitis Institute




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Video title: New Pharma Partner for Eskitis Institute
Released on: December 02, 2008. © PharmaVentures Ltd
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On the 28th October 2008 Pfizer announced its new anti-infective partnership with the Eskitis Institute at Griffith University. In this interview Fintan Walton talks with Stuart Newman, the institute’s Business Manager, about what this collaboration means for them. Dr Newman explains why the Eskitis Institute has succeeded in the world of natural products where so many have struggled and how they are using their capabilities from 14 years of experience within this field to drive products forward into pharmaceutical pipelines.
The natural product competences within Eskitis Institute
Fintan Walton:
Hello and welcome to Pharma Ventures business review here in Melbourne Australia. On this show I have Stewart Newman who is business manager at Eskitis Institute which is part of Griffith University in Queensland, Australia. Welcome to the show.
Stewart Newman:
Thank you very much.
Fintan Walton:
We are here to Ausbiotech 2008 in Melbourne, Australia in October and yesterday you just announced a collaboration with Pfizer, a very important collaboration with the Eskitis Institute and particularly in the area of natural products which the Eskitis Institute has been successful in developing over the last few years. Could you just tell us first of all about the natural products competences within the Eskitis Institute?
Stewart Newman:
Certainly well the collaboration with AstraZeneca began in 1993. I (indiscernable) with about 50 people from the university started a collaboration with AstraZeneca effectively working as part of the company and the role was to undertake all of that AstraZeneca'snatural product drug discovery screening using high throughput screening robotics. Over 14 years we built up a fantastic capability in this area in terms of assay technology, extraction techniques, biotic collection, compound management, data management and that's we have developed that over this 14 year period to become a very formidable capability in natural product drug discovery.
How the Eskitis Institute has succeeded in the world of natural products where so many have struggled.
Fintan Walton:
Because natural products has a mixed background. It's been successful obviously because a number of medicines out there that that have come from natural products but lots of companies have tried to find new products from natural products so, what is about the Eskitis Institute competence that allows you to be at the fore front?
Stewart Newman:
Well a few things, first we don't focus on specific species without the focus on the (indiscernable) knowledge we take a much broader taxonomic approach. We engage expert we engaged experts from the Queensland museum, the Queensland herbarium to go and collect the samples China, Papa New Guinea, Queensland and Tasmania and that is this plant and marine invertebrates. We have been very systematic in these collections which (indiscernable) take every sample and so we will know exactly where to go back so recollection is not an issue and has never been an issue for us.
Fintan Walton:
Right.
Stewart Newman:
And quite a new species have been discovered at a result and when we have collected from countries or even Queensland we put in place beneficiary ingredients. So we have a very systemized integrated approach to harvesting the bio diversity. In terms of working with natural products it's true that it has, of the bad press it's been haven't flowed with competing, completing regeneration strategies. Extracts will be very complicated, had to isolate compounds, we have solved very many of these problems at Eskitis. With Proprietary extractions techniques which is built on our access to AstraZeneca'slibrary and cells. So we built on that knowledge and there we can utilize this and in the amount of market and worked on exclusively so solved many of these problems.
Fintan Walton:
Right so the original agreement you have with AstraZeneca was an exclusive one but that's now become non exclusive, is that correct?
Stewart Newman:
Yes, we are still working with AstraZeneca on a couple of projects that they have taken forward into their pipeline but now we can work with other partners, early this year we announced a deal with Innate pharmaceuticals [PharmaDeals ID = 34188] in Sweden to do anti infective drug screening. Yesterday we announced the partnership with Pfizer in a similar character.
How they are using their capabilities from 14 years of experience within this field to drive products forward into pharmaceutical pipelines.
Fintan Walton:
Right we will come up there in a moment , as you've already illustrated or pointed out there are several important factors that need to be considered when you are looking at natural products, one is to be able to go back to the source, identify that, obviously finding the, an efficacious compound is obviously very important too, but it's the diversity the compounds that you bring out could be small molecules, they can be proteins and so forth, so does your institute have the capabilities to scale up these entities once you find them?
Stewart Newman:
We have the capability to undertake initial lead optimization but we are very keen to partner really in terms of scale up and we are partnering with the pharma companies we do like to work with them as much as possible and we do pass on competent to their pipelines we are keen to stay involved. With AstraZeneca we were involved op upon many steps in the way all the way through the pipeline.
Fintan Walton:
So your role basically then really is largely lead optimization?
Stewart Newman:
Yes generation and optimization.
Pfizer's new anti-infective partnership with the Eskitis Institute
Fintan Walton:
Okay. Going to the Pfizer deal that was announced yesterday, that's obviously an important new step for you getting a major pharmaceutical to effectively endorse the work that you are doing, could you tell us a little bit about that, I understand first of all its in the area of anti infective ?
Stewart Newman:
It is. Pfizer providing us with an anti- infective target. We go through and screen that target against our, we are calling our nature bank, our natural product library and we provide with them the bio-actives that we identify.
Fintan Walton:
Right and how is the institute gonna get rewarded for this?
Stewart Newman:
We have a deal structure with from payments with milestones based on clinical developments and our alter stream.
Fintan Walton:
Okay so there is a there is mixed obviously mixed�
Stewart Newman:
It is yes. yes.
Fintan Walton:
Revenue stream potential revenue stream.
Stewart Newman:
Essentially.
Fintan Walton:
Okay and presumably how long is that collaboration for?
Stewart Newman:
Initially weeks we generally expect screening campaigns to take around six months, this is the first and we are hopeful that more campaigns will come along, more targets so will be indicated as a possibility.
Fintan Walton:
Okay well we look forward to following the events at Eskitis Institute and the collaboration with Pfizer. Thank you very much indeed for coming on the show.
Stewart Newman:
Thank you.
Stewart Newman
Business Manager
Dr Stewart Newman gained his PhD in Antarctic Marine Biology from the University of Tasmania in 2001 and has worked in mining remediation, environmental science, oceanography, food science policy and now drug discovery. He is currently Business Manager at Griffith University'sEskitis Institute.
Eskitis Institute
The Eskitis Institute for Cell and Molecular Therapies, based at the Brisbane Innovation Park, investigates novel drug- and cell-based therapies for human diseases in the thematic areas of cancer, infection and immunity, neglected diseases, neurodegenerative diseases and stem cell biology. These themes were chosen on the basis of the Eskitis Institute existing expertise and facilities, the importance of the therapeutic area and the potential for future discoveries. The Institute works towards the development of new strategies to prevent and treat diseases, with an emphasis on multi-disciplinary research and collaboration within the Institute and with national and international partners, current partners are Pfizer, AstraZeneca, Innate Pharma, Medicines for Malaria and Drugs for Neglected Diseases Initiative