Professor Ranjeny Thomas

UniQuest start-up company Dendright Pty Ltd today announced that US-based Janssen Biotech, Inc. has agreed to provide additional funding to support further research under its R&D Collaboration and Option to License Agreement to progress Dendright’s tolerizing immunotherapy to the clinic for the treatment of patients with rheumatoid arthritis (RA).  The agreement was facilitated by Johnson & Johnson Innovation. In addition, Arthritis Queensland, a key Queensland-based not-for-profit organization, has agreed to contribute funding to the clinical program.

The new funds from Janssen and Arthritis Queensland will be used to conduct a first-in-human safety and tolerability study which will commence enrolment in the second half of 2017.  

Dendright entered into the current agreement with Janssen in 2013 and has focused on the development of a novel liposomal drug product, DEN-181 which aims to treat rheumatoid arthritis through a targeted immunomodulation strategy.  The liposome drug product delivers an immunomodulatory compound and an autoantigenic peptide relevant to the pathophysiology of emergent RA to cells of the immune system.  

Key provisions in the 2013 R&D Collaboration and Option to License Agreement remain unchanged. Under the terms of the agreement, Dendright receives funding and, in return, Janssen has an option to the exclusive worldwide rights to develop and commercialise Dendright’s RA immunotherapy.  In addition to an option payment, Dendright is eligible to receive certain development and sales milestone payments as well as tiered royalties on sales. Dendright will be responsible for completing the phase 1 clinical trial in Australia. Janssen will be responsible for further development, clinical and regulatory filing activities. Dendright is wholly owned by UniQuest Pty Ltd, the main commercialisation company of The University of Queensland.

Dendright CEO Helen Roberts commented “Our team is very keen to extend the successful collaboration we’ve developed with the core project team at Janssen and progress DEN-181 through initial clinical development.  As well as assessing safety and tolerability of the product, we will also validate immune biomarker panels and look for possible immunomodulatory effects of the therapy”.

Professor Ranjeny Thomas, scientific founder of Dendright commented that the funding extension with Janssen and the addition of Arthritis Queensland is a terrific outcome for the RA program.

“We have worked very hard over the past few years and have generated high quality pre-clinical animal and ex vivo human data in support of this novel immunomodulatory approach.   The team is to be congratulated for their hard work and persistence in getting to this position”, she said.

UniQuest CEO Dr Dean Moss said he was delighted to see the continuation of the strategic collaboration. 

“There is a pressing need to develop new approaches for the treatment of RA – innovative agents such as DEN-181 offer the potential to arrest the disease at a very early stage.

“Dendright is in an excellent position to advance Professor Ranjeny Thomas’ innovative, first-in-class approach to combat this debilitating disease with the support of the Janssen collaboration and the addition of Arthritis Queensland,” said Dr Moss.

Arthritis Queensland’s CEO, Emma Thompson, commented that “We are extremely grateful to our donors who have enabled us to support this vital research. This funding is only possible due to the generosity of many Queenslanders who are passionate about seeking better treatments, and ultimately a cure, for all forms of arthritis. We are very proud to take a proactive approach to supporting the arthritis community by collaborating with industry partners and we hope that it sets a benchmark for increased connectivity between the NFP and corporate sectors.”

RA is caused by immune system dysfunction and affects millions of people worldwide, destroying joints and causing cardiovascular complications that can reduce life spans by 10 years. Dendright’s approach targets an underlying cause of the disease and therefore is differentiated from existing RA therapies which act by treating the inflammatory symptoms once the disease has developed.  In addition, unlike existing drugs, Dendright’s tolerizing autoimmune therapy has been designed to   target selected patients based on specific biomarkers prior to treatment.

 

Media Enquiries:

Helen Roberts, CEO - +61 (0) 419 657 504, helen.roberts@dendright.com.au

 

About Dendright Pty Ltd

Dendright Pty Ltd was established by UniQuest in 2005 to enable Professor Ranjeny Thomas and her team to find a treatment for Rheumatoid Arthritis by focusing on ways that the body’s own immune system could “re-educate” the cells that cause tissue damage associated with autoimmune diseases. In 2012, the company received a seed grant from Janssen-Cilag Pty Ltd in Australia, one of the Janssen pharmaceutical companies. Before 2012, the company had been assisted by grants from the Queensland Government’s Innovation Start-up Scheme and the Australian Government’s Biotechnology Innovation Fund. In 2013, Dendright entered into a R&D Collaboration and Option to License Agreement with Janssen Biotech, Inc. and subsequently received Experienced Executive grant funding from Australian Government’s Commercialisation Australia program. Dendright’s core technology patent, which describes the particulate co-delivery of target antigens and NF-kB inhibitors to immune cells, was granted by the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) as US Patent Application 12/444,790 in 2015. Dendright has also secured the grant of related patents in Australia, Canada and China. Professor Thomas’ research at The University of Queensland’s Diamantina Institute has also been supported by Arthritis Queensland, the Australian Research Council and Australia’s National Health and Medical Research Council.

About UniQuest Pty Limited

UniQuest is the main commercialisation company of The University of Queensland (UQ), specialising in the commercialisation of intellectual property, research outcomes and expertise.  UniQuest delivers commercialisation outcomes which are valuable for UQ and profound for business, the environment, global communities and society as a whole. UniQuest’s two business offerings – IP Commercialisation and Expertise Commercialisation – are designed to support UQ’s global strategy, industry engagement and reputation for excellence.  UniQuest benchmarks in the top 10 percent globally for university-based technology transfer. UniQuest-licensed UQ innovations are now generating annual sales of $3 billion.  UQ superconductor technology, through licensing arrangements, is used in two-thirds of the world’s MRIs and more than 79 million doses of the life-saving Gardasil® cervical cancer vaccine, patented by UniQuest in 1991, have been distributed throughout 121 countries, including 72 developing countries.

About The University of Queensland (UQ)

The University of Queensland, Australia, is one of the world’s premier teaching and research institutions. It is consistently ranked in the top 100 in the four leading independent global rankings. With more than 45,000 students and 7500 staff, UQ’s teaching is informed by research, and spans six faculties and eight research institutes.

About Arthritis Queensland

Arthritis Queensland is a not-for-profit organization providing education, information and support services for Queensland children and adults living with arthritis or osteoporosis. Its mission is to enable Queenslanders with, or at risk of, arthritis and osteoporosis to better manage their wellbeing. Arthritis Queensland is committed to funding research into cures and better treatments for arthritis. Since 1992, Arthritis Queensland has been a significant funder of The Arthritis Queensland Chair of Rheumatology (currently held by Professor Ranjeny Thomas) at the University of Queensland.