From lab to industry, Monash-linked start up attracts $7M investment

Drug discovery research at Monash has underpinned a new spin out company to develop therapies for metabolic syndrome and type-2 diabetes-related diseases.

Cincera Therapeutics Pty Ltd (Cincera) has launched with an AU$7 million venture capital commitment from the Medical Research Commercialisation Fund (MRCF). Cincera’s founding scientists are Associate Professor Bernard Flynn from Monash University’s Institute of Pharmaceutical Sciences (MIPS) and Professor Stuart Pitson from the Centre for Cancer Biology (CCB).

The company will translate research from MIPS and CCB to develop and trial new treatments for a range of conditions including certain cancers. The investment will help the company fast-track the selection of drugs suitable for clinical trials within three to four years.

Associate Professor Flynn, a medicinal chemist and serial entrepreneur, said his collaboration with Professor Pitson and Associate Professor Bing Wang (Monash Clinical Epidemiology) has brought disease-biology science and drug-discovery together in a unique approach to treating a range of diseases including diabetes and cancer.

“Cincera is a perfect example of how partnering great teams and technologies with capital, and the right expertise, can facilitate the translation of Australian medical research,” Associate Professor Flynn said.

“MIPS is taking Australian innovation to the world through the development of novel therapies and we are delighted to have won the support from MRCF to take our innovative new therapies to the next stage.

“Through our unique approach, we have been able to identify enzymes of fat metabolism that are key contributors to disease and gain direct access to drug-molecules for intercepting them,” Associate Professor Flynn said.

“Our lead compounds have been further optimised in collaboration with the MIPS Centre for Drug Candidate Optimisation (CDCO) and form the basis of Cincera’s new approach to metabolic disease. This program exemplifies MIPS’s ongoing commitment to translational research through inter-institutional collaboration.”

Professor Pitson, a world leader in lipid enzymology, said early-stage drug development had revealed promising new treatment targets.

“We have development candidates that are potent and broad-acting anti-inflammatory and anti-fibrotic agents that show strong potential to become new treatments,” Professor Pitson said.

“There are many aspects of metabolic disease that could be improved by these drugs, from treating liver or kidney dysfunction through to possible treatments for certain cancers.

“Making a difference is what drives researchers at the CCB and forming a company like Cincera will be important for translating our research into better treatments for patients.”

Dr Michael Bettess, investment manager for Brandon Capital and Director of Cincera, said the Cincera team had developed a highly differentiated approach to treating inflammation and fibrosis.

“When this unique approach was combined with the high-quality Australian science and extensive commercial experience of the team, Cincera became a clear early-stage investment for the MRCF,” Dr Bettess said.

The $200 million MRCF, managed by Brandon Capital, was established in 2007 and promotes the creation of early stage medical technology companies across Australia and New Zealand.

Brandon Capital’s investment manager in Adelaide and Cincera director Dr Melissa McBurnie said the foundation of Cincera is a great example of Victoria and South Australia’s innovation ecosystems encouraging the development of a local company with a global focus.

The CCB is an alliance between Central Adelaide Local Health Network Incorporated and the University of South Australia in Adelaide.