9 September 2011

University of Queensland biotech start-up, Spinifex Pharmaceuticals Pty Ltd, has secured A$6.3 million in the final tranche of an A$18.3 million series B round to fund clinical efficacy trials of its innovative neuropathic (nerve) pain therapy.

This follows the success of its Phase I clinical safety trials.

Spinifex has raised A$22.3 million to develop a market-ready product since it was established by UQ’s main research commercialisation company, UniQuest Pty Limited, in 2005.

Spinifex's principal technology is based on the discovery by UQ’s Professor Maree Smith, of a potential treatment for neuropathic pain (a type of nerve pain) and inflammatory pain.

The lead compound, EMA401, is initially being developed into medications with the potential to help patients with neuropathic pain associated with post-herpetic neuralgia (a painful condition that develops in some patients following shingles), cancer chemotherapy, and peripheral nerve injury.

Professor Smith is also involved with acute pain therapies being developed by the ASX history-making biotech company QRxPharma Limited (another UQ start-up), and more recently, the Enogesia discoveries investigating the analgesic benefits of nitric oxide.

UniQuest Managing Director David Henderson said the Spinifex investment demonstrated confidence from the financial sector in the ability of Australian university research to contribute significantly to global challenges.

“Modern lifestyles and aging populations in the developed world are driving up demand for pain drugs, generating a health sector headache for governments everywhere and a multi-billion dollar market," Mr Henderson said.

"University research-based ventures like Spinifex provide vehicles for investors wanting to achieve both financial and community benefit returns.

“We are particularly excited about the developments with Spinifex, having worked with the research team since the small molecule discovery came to light in our inaugural Trailblazer innovative ideas competition in 2003.

“Leveraging proof-of-concept funding from our Pathfinder program and pre-seed investment from Uniseed, the venture drew support from fund managers GBS Venture Partners and Brandon Capital Partners to accelerate the research.

“Every stage of the clinical trials process takes the therapy closer to being market-ready, and ultimately to the patients who need it.”

The Phase II trial in post-herpetic neuralgia patients is expected to enrol its first patient this month, while further trials in peripheral nerve injury patients and cancer chemotherapy patients are expected to start by the end of the year.

Media enquiries:
Leanne Wyvill +61 7 3365 4037, +61 409 767 199 or l.wyvill@uniquest.com.au

Commercial enquiries:
Tom McCarthy +61 3 9938 1205 or tom.mccarthy@spinifexpharma.com.au

About UniQuest Pty Limited www.uniquest.com.au
Established by The University of Queensland in 1984, UniQuest is widely recognised as one of Australia’s largest and most successful university commercialisation groups, benchmarking in the top tier of technology transfer worldwide. From an intellectual property portfolio of 1,500+ patents it has created over 60 companies, and since 2000 UniQuest and its start-ups have raised more than $400 million to take university technologies to market. Annual sales of products using UQ technology and licensed by UniQuest are running at $3 billion. UniQuest now commercialises innovations developed at The University of Queensland and its commercialisation partner institutions: the University of Wollongong, University of Technology Sydney, James Cook University, University of Tasmania, Mater Medical Research Institute, and Queensland Health. UniQuest also provides access to an expansive and exclusive network of independent academics to tailor a consulting or project R&D solution to meet the diverse needs of industry and government, facilitating some 500 consulting, expert opinion, testing, and contract research services each year. UniQuest is also a leading Australasian provider of international development assistance recognised for excellence in technical leadership, management and research. Working with agencies such as AusAID, NZAID, the Asian Development Bank and the World Bank, UniQuest has developed and implemented more than 400 projects in 46 countries throughout the Pacific, South-East Asia, the Indian sub-continent and Africa.

About Spinifex Pharmaceuticals Pty Ltd www.spinifexpharma.com.au
Spinifex Pharmaceuticals is an Australian biotechnology company developing new drug candidates for the treatment and management of pain. Established in 2005 and based in Melbourne, Spinifex has applied its world-class drug development capabilities to advance product candidates. Its lead product EMA401 is under development as a potential first-in-class oral treatment for neuropathic pain and related symptoms without CNS side effects. Spinifex is conducting Phase 2 clinical trials with EMA401 in a number of neuropathic pain conditions. Spinifex investors are GBS Venture Partners, Brandon Capital Partners, Uniseed and UniQuest.