Asia-Pacific’s emerging health and innovation hub, the Gold Coast Health and Knowledge Precinct (GCHKP) is fast becoming a location for biotechnology development, clinical trials and entrepreneurial start-up activity.
A range of drug, vaccine, diagnostic and other technologies is available for partnering across the Precinct’s research institutes at Griffith University, including the Institute for Glycomics, while Medtech R&D is ramping up, enhanced by the development of the Advanced Design and Prototyping Technologies Institute (ADaPT).
Several technology applications are already partnered, including into human clinical trials, while there’s been exciting advancement in the development of a number of platform technologies.
Biotechnology capabilities extend across a broad range of drug, vaccine and diagnostic discoveries utilising a multi-disciplinary approach at the Institute of Glycomics, a natural drug discovery focus at the Griffith Institute of Drug Discovery (GRIDD); and Immunology and Regenerative Medicine specialisations within Griffith’s Menzies Health Institute Queensland (MHIQ).
Unique in Australia and globally collaborative, the Institute for Glycomics pioneers the study of glycans (sugars coating cells) in disease processes, for cancer and infectious diseases. With more than 200 researchers, the Institute’s technologies tackle diseases of global impact, and include a world-first whole-of-parasite malaria vaccine candidate known as PlasProtect® in human clinical trials, and a Group A Streptococcus vaccine in co-development with Chinese company Olymvax Biopharmaceuticals.
Innovating at the cutting-edge of chemistry and biology and boasting the unique resources of NatureBank and Compounds Australia, GRIDD researchers, including the Centre for Cell Factories and Biopolymers, apply novel approaches together with global partners.
MHIQ undertakes research across the lifecycle to identify key factors that influence health with biomedical research focused on infectious diseases and immunology, chronic disease and ageing and regenerative and rehabilitation medicine.
The current pipeline of available technologies for partnering includes:
Strep A infections, both streptococcal pharyngitis (tonsillitis) and streptococcal pyoderma (school sores) are highly prevalent and seemingly mild streptococcal infections can rapidly escalate to serious invasive Strep A disease (iSAD), which has a significant mortality rate. In approximately 20% of cases, iSAD is accompanied by a streptococcal toxic shock syndrome (STSS), which causes necrotising fasciitis, myositis or deep bruising and multi-organ failure.
Researchers have developed a double-pronged immunotherapeutic that neutralises both the STSS causing bacterial exotoxins, as well as the bacteria responsible for the primary invasive Strep A infection.
Researchers at GRIDD’s Centre for Cell Factories and Biopolymers aim to harness the capacity of biological systems to synthesise and assemble biologically active materials by applying bioengineering, synthetic biology and biotechnological approaches.
Led by Professor Bernd Rehm, who’s authored more than 200 papers cited over 10,000 times and is also an inventor or co-inventor on 58 patent applications, 25 of which are granted patents, their platform technology focuses on the design and production of high-value functional materials including bio-based materials for the prevention, treatment and diagnosis of diseases, as well as environmental remediation and industrial uses.
A particular focus is bio-engineering that involves cell factories self assembling particulate vaccines with disease targets including meningitis, pneumonia, tuberculosis, and infections caused by Pseudomonas aeruginosa, Hepatitis C and Dengue virus. They also seek to use cell factories to self-produce nano and micro structures for diagnostic devices.
“It’s the first proof of concept; it’s a platform technology that can be now easily adapted to a variety of environmental, industrial and medical applications,” says Professor Rehm.
Researchers at MHIQ are developing an artificial wrist ligament, in partnership with industry, offering the promise of not only repairing the most common wrist injury in young, active people, but providing a platform technology that will transform how sports injuries are treated.
Clinical lead Dr Randy Bindra, a top wrist surgeon at Gold Coast University Hospital, is working with biomechanical and robotics engineering colleagues at Griffith University, together with Griffith’s industrial design experts and leading Australian regenerative medicine company Orthocell, to develop a reliable surgical scaffold, seeded with the patient’s cells, for sufferers of Scapholunate Interosseous Ligament (SLIL) injury.
“If we can perfect the science and make this a reliable platform starting off in the wrist, we could use it anywhere else where there’s a ligament injury,” says Dr Bindra.