Australians of the year forge partnership for burns drug development

12/07/05

An innovative drug treatment that could limit the damage caused by burns and encourage skin tissue regeneration is the focus of a new partnership between West Australian research groups headed by two Australians of the Year.

The new class of protein-based drugs, called Phylomer®, has been developed by Phylogica, the first spin out company from the Telethon Institute for Child Health Research, headed by Professor Fiona Stanley.

Phylogica announced to the Australian Stock Exchange today that it has signed a development agreement with the McComb Foundation, headed by burns specialist and 2005 Australian of the Year, Clinical Professor Fiona Wood. The deal will progress the use of the cell protection Phylomers® in the treatment of burn injury.

Phylogica CEO Dr Stewart Washer said preliminary research results look promising.

"One of the major problems with burns is that the time taken to heal often leads to severe scarring. What we've seen in early experiments is that the Phylomers® seem to assist cells in reinfiltrating the burn area and to re-grow healthy tissue, reducing the time taken to heal," Dr Washer said.

"Obviously challenges remain to progress these early experiments to a stage where we can see how it assists burns patients, and that's where the collaborations with Clinical Professor Fiona Wood and the McComb Foundation will prove so valuable."

Clinical Professor Wood said she was very impressed by the potential of the Phylomer® drugs.

"We always say that the quality of the scar needs to be worth the pain of survival. Here we're talking about compounds that could potentially limit the extent of the burn injury as well as helping to reduce scarring," she said.

"It's important to remember that this project is in its early stages, but certainly we are very excited by the preliminary data and keen to explore it."

Phylomers® are a unique set of small protein fragments identified and owned by Phylogica that block the protein-protein interactions in cells that lead to disease.

Institute Director Professor Fiona Stanley said the exciting aspect of Phylomers® is their potential application in a wide range of diseases where inflammation is a factor, such as rheumatoid arthritis, diabetes and stroke.

"Like with burns, much of the damage in these types of diseases is caused by the inflammatory reaction," Professor Stanley said.

"These Phylomers® appear to be very effective molecules in blocking this secondary damage that does so much harm."

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