7 December 2015

An international collaboration to discover and develop therapeutic drugs is set to find new treatments for Ross River virus.

The mosquito-borne virus is widespread across Australia and the South Pacific, and is responsible for the debilitating Ross River fever that strikes about 5000 Australians a year.

The collaboration involves Emory University’s Drug Innovation Ventures at Emory, LLC (DRIVE) and University of Queensland (UQ) commercialisation company UniQuest, through the Queensland Emory Drug Discovery Initiative (QEDDI).

The project is the first for QEDDI, a new drug development initiative established at UQ, managed by UniQuest and supported by the Queensland Government through the Advance Queensland initiative.

Minister for Science and Innovation Leeanne Enoch said the State Government’s three-year funding of $4.169 million to establish QEDDI would result in better health outcomes for Queenslanders.

“This Advance Queensland funding is part of a suite of programs encouraging research, business and industry to collaborate to create the knowledge-based jobs of the future,” she said.

“QEDDI is creating a development pipeline where potential therapies discovered by our best and brightest minds can be cost-effectively developed in Queensland so we can retain our scientific talent and reap the economic benefits.”

Emory University’s medicinal chemistry company DRIVE will deliver potential drugs to UQ for Ross River virus antiviral testing.

The groups will collaborate on the development of any promising Ross River virus drug candidates.

QEDDI, DRIVE and the Emory Institute of Drug Development (EIDD) will provide medicinal chemistry expertise, with Ross River virus expertise from Professor Paul Young and colleagues in the UQ School of Chemistry and Molecular Biosciences.

DRIVE and Emory Institute for Drug Development CEO Dr George Painter said the collaboration fitted squarely with DRIVE’s mission.

“We have expertise in finding antiviral drugs that may be of value across many unmet needs,” he said.

“To work in a focused manner with world experts in Ross River virus at The University of Queensland greatly increases our chances of success in treating this and other unmet viral diseases that cause so much suffering.”

UniQuest CEO Dr Dean Moss said he was delighted to see the collaboration come to fruition.

“QEDDI was recently established to translate Queensland’s world-leading biological science into small molecule drug candidates with commercial opportunities,” he said.

“Ross River is a debilitating virus that affects many Queenslanders, so an effective treatment would have great benefit.”

QEDDI and DRIVE were established to pursue the discovery and development of new disease treatments through collaboration and commercial relationships. 

Media: UniQuest communications, Nicole Cowan, n.cowan@uniquest.com.au, +61 7 3365 7480; DRIVE communications, Holly Korschun, hkorsch@emory.edu, +1 404-727-3990.