Monash research underpins Pfizer deal to develop cancer drugs

A multi-million dollar deal brokered between global pharmaceuticals giant Pfizer and Melbourne-based Cancer Therapeutics CRC (CTx) could lead to the development of life-saving cancer drugs, underpinned by Monash University research.

CTx have announced a two-year research collaboration and a license agreement with Pfizer Inc worth $20 million upfront, but it could be worth as much as $650 million in milestone payments to CTx if the program reaches commercialisation.

The partnership is underpinned by two novel pre-clinical cancer programs developed by researchers from the Monash Institute of Pharmaceutical Sciences (MIPS) working alongside other CTx participant organisations. The programs target proteins that are known to play an important role in driving the growth of both solid and blood cancers – by switching on or off – cancer-causing chemicals in the body.

The novel work of the CTx medicinal chemistry team, based at MIPS, has led to advanced molecules that may hold the key to promising new drug developments. Dr Paul Stupple leads the medicinal chemistry efforts for Cancer Therapeutics CRC and is based at MIPS in Parkville.

Dr Stupple said converting these molecules into potential new medicines held the exciting prospect as a game-changer in the way cancer is treated in the future.

“This license agreement and research collaboration with Pfizer is an exciting outcome for MIPS. We hope to see multiple small molecules progress to clinical trials in patients, offering the potential to change the way we treat people with cancer in the future,” Dr Stupple said.

Dr Stupple said the project was long term and could be up to 10 years before commercialisation if successful.

The partnership is one of the largest pre-clinical deals and adds to a growing list of commercialisation successes for Australian pharmaceuticals and biotech companies. The landmark deal is a major step forward in helping Australian researchers bridge the gap between the laboratory and commercialisation, while keeping more private investments onshore.