Griffith University and Pfizer in new partnership to unlock nature’s cure for infections

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In the quest to develop the next generation of anti-infective medicine, Griffith University and Pfizer, the world’s largest research-based pharmaceutical company, announced a leading partnership today.

Griffith University’s Eskitis Institute for Cell and Molecular Therapies investigates novel drug- and cell-based therapies for human diseases in the areas of cancer, infection and immunity, neglected diseases, neurological disease and stem cell biology. The Institute’s research includes a program to search for new compounds from nature that could be developed into drugs.

Eskitis Institute Director Professor Ronald Quinn, who is leading the project, said Pfizer’s commitment to develop nature-based drugs was a clear demonstration of confidence by a major pharmaceutical company in the continuing promise of natural products as a source of drugs.

“This is an exciting partnership for the Institute and we are looking forward to developing novel anti-infective medicine by screening the Institute’s extensive collection of natural products,” Professor Quinn said.

Professor Quinn and his team have spent the past 14 years developing “Nature Bank”, a unique library of 200,000 natural product fractions derived from a collection of over 40,000 samples of plants and marine invertebrates collected from mega-diverse areas of tropical Queensland, the Great Barrier Reef, Tasmania, Papua New Guinea and China.

Nature Bank contains drug-like molecules separated into mixtures of a small number of compounds. This allows the rapid Identification of the active molecules from bioactive fractions using modern chemical methods.

“Previously, natural product discovery had notoriously slow timelines as it relied on an iterative bio-assay guided isolation strategy. We are now able to rapidly identify promising compounds in Nature Bank.”

Dr Daniel Grant, Head of Strategic Alliances at Pfizer Australia said that this alliance is a unique opportunity to gain access to a truly unique library of natural products. “Pfizer hopes that this will be the first of several screening campaigns to be run in conjunction with Griffith University which will facilitate our drug discovery programs.”

“Working with Australian researchers and institutes only affirms Pfizer’s global position of working with the best talent regardless of where they are in the world,” added Dr Grant.

Pfizer Australia has committed to spending more than $50million in 2008 on various R&D initiatives in Australia including research grant, clinical trials and a $3.5million program for the Pfizer Research Fellows.

Griffith University will receive payments based on drug development milestones and royalties based on sales of the anti-infective medicines that will be developed by Pfizer.

Bacteria cause a range of infectious diseases, including tuberculosis and many food-borne diseases, killing millions around the world.


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