Monash projects backed by Australia’s national biotech incubator

Biotech projects being led by Monash University have received $2.5M in funding to advance novel therapeutics and preclinical medical research that address schizophrenia, cancer, inflammatory diseases, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and muscular dystrophy.

The five successful grant recipients, which are being funded by Australia’s national biotechnology incubator CUREator, has resulted in the formation of four new Monash-led biotech companies, with the fifth grant going to an existing Monash spin-out, RAGE Biotech.

The five projects that have each received $500,000 from the CUREator initiative include:

  • Phrenix Therapeutics – developing treatments for schizophrenia. Led by Professor Chris Langmead and Dr Gregory Stewart, Monash Institute of Pharmaceutical Sciences.
  • Myostellar – developing novel therapies for treatment of muscular dystrophies. Led by Professor Peter Currie and Associate Professor Mikaël Martino, Australian Regenerative Medicine Institute (Monash University).
  • Flex Immunotherapeutics – innovative biologic drug that harnesses the power of one’s own immune system to treat cancer. Led by Associate Professor Ross Dickins, Central Clinical School (Monash University), in collaboration with Dr. Nadia Kershaw (The Walter and Eliza Hall Institute).
  • Omega One Therapeutics. Exploring glutathione transferase Omega 1 inhibitors as anti-inflammatory therapeutics. Joint collaboration between Monash Institute of Pharmaceutical Sciences (Prof. Jonathan Baell) and Australia National University (Prof. Phil Board).
  • RAGE Biotech – developing preclinical treatments for chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, with founder Professor Merlin Thomas, Central Clinical School. RAGE was formed in 2020, and has raised $3.7M in seed funding led by IP Group and with co-funding from Monash Investment Holdings.

CUREator is backed by the Commonwealth Government’s Medical Research Future Fund $80 million Medical Research Commercialisation Initiative and is managed by Brandon BioCatalyst, the largest life science investor in Australia.

Each of the Monash projects were identified by CUREator as early-stage biotech technologies with long-term potential with the support of targeted funding, which is accompanied by clear milestone-driven tranches and help to guide development and maximise their chance of success.

Monash will also invest approximately $200k into each new company to cover additional costs during the timeframe of the scheme and provide support to help the companies to grow and attract further investment.

Monash University Chief Commercialisation Officer, Dr Alastair Hick, said that the funding of these projects demonstrates the tangible impact university research can potentially lead to in helping to address some of the world’s most significant health issues.

“Receiving funding for five projects is an amazing success rate and each of these will have the potential to attract further investment, again confirming Monash’s leadership in the commercialisation space,” said Dr Hick.

“Supporting the research capacity and capability of universities has never been more crucial, and early-stage research is a vital step in progressing the next generation of medical therapies and innovations which could make a true impact when it comes to improving health and saving lives.”

CUREator Head of Operations, Dr Simon Wilkins, said: “CUREator’s preclinical stream is designed to bridge a critical funding gap in the biomedical innovation journey from innovation to translation. We are thrilled to be providing investment to Monash University through our inaugural funding round. CUREator will also provide continued support and guidance to help maximise the chance of success for this project as it advances along the pathway to critical commercial inflection points that prepare the company for further investment, licensing, or acquisition as appropriate.”

The research teams were guided by Monash Innovation together with faculty business development professionals to support the investment cases and build the new ventures, with the end-to-end process led by Monash’s Director of Commercialisation and Business Development (Life Sciences), Dr Kathy Nielsen.