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Seed-Start recipients announced

An Adelaide-based biotech company will expand clinical trials of what is hoped to be a game-changing treatment for brain cancers.

Aucentra Therapeutics has been awarded a $700,000 Seed-Start program grant through the state government’s Research and Innovation Fund to test its drug Auceliciclib.

Discovered by Professor Shudong Wang and her team at the University of South Australia, Auceliciclib stops cancer cell growth.

If successful in clinical trials, it will be used to treat glioblastoma multiforme, the most aggressive type of brain cancer. The drug targets two enzymes to halt cancer cell growth and proliferation and has been tested on animals.

Clinical trials began in June on a patient with a solid tumour, but the company hopes to expand this to 45 people with various cancers, including about 20 with the brain cancer.

Treatment for the incurable cancer now includes surgery, radiotherapy and chemotherapy, but despite this, average survival time after diagnosis is just 12 to 18 months after diagnosis.

Aucentra Therapeutics’ director of clin­ical development Jacqui Wade said government funding was crucial.

“Aucentra Therapeutics is developing breakthrough kinase inhibitors to address high unmet needs for some of the most lethal cancer types,” she said.

“This is the first time it has been put in humans. The first part of the trial is in patients with solid tumours as we work towards the agreed best dose for patients with glioblastoma”.

Researchers also hope Auceliciclib could be used to treat breast, colorectal, lung and ovarian cancer and leukaemia.

Innovation and Skills Minister David Pisoni said the project was an example of SA taking the lead in scientific research.

“SA is a centre of world-class medical research and our scientists are continually pushing the boundaries of what is possible and finding solutions to important problems,” he said.

“I am incredibly proud of Professor Wang and her team at the University of South Australia for the amazing work they have accomplished.”

Other projects to have recently secured Seed-Start grant funding include:

  • Three Peaks Medical – $664,000 for testing a device to reduce vascular complications during surgery;
  • Preserve Health – $138,400 to help launch its PREPD Hydration sports hydration drink into the US market. It allows consumers to absorb fluids more efficiently;
  • Sherlok Technology – $260,000 to develop artificial intelligence to allow mortgage brokers to predict which existing clients will leave them and adjust interest rates, and;
  • Pearler – $100,000 to develop artificial intelligence to deal with cybersecurity.

This story originally appeared in The Advertiser on Tuesday 7 December 2021. Subscribers can access the full story here.

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