A new company, based in Australia, which will specialise in oncology, has begun operations, claiming to be “one of the largest public/private partnerships of its type in the world”.

Cancer Therapeutics CRC Pty Ltd, or CTx, says that it hopes to address the gap between “Australia's excellent academic cancer research base and its ability to discovery and develop new drugs” to treat the disease. It has already secured A$148 million, almost $152 million, in funding over seven years, including A$37.6 million from the Australian Commonwealth Government, and is now seeking projects, or "big ideas about small molecules", from research organisations in Australia. One of the first projects is to discover and develop compounds directed at BNO69, the CTx participant Adelaide-based Bionomics' own proprietary cancer target.

CTx chief executive Julian Clark says that while organisations such as Australia's National Health and Medical Research Council and the Australian Research Council “provide excellent support for researchers and organisations pursuing basic scientific investigation, continuing financial support for further development of potential commercial targets has proven problematic”. This, he added, is largely due to the inherent increased risks and the accelerating costs in any attempts to translate promising compounds into prospective drugs. “The scarcity of intellectual and financial capital for this essential part of the drug discovery process between the lab bench and the clinical drug development process is Australia's great funding gap,” he claimed.

Dr Clark added that CTx can now provide “an integrated and coherent pathway for drug discovery, commercialisation and clinical development”. He stated that “the standard model of drug development can present a frustrating conundrum for medical researchers” and the discovery of a new compound “requires further substantial investment to properly demonstrate its potential”. Ian Street, the firm’s chief scientific officer, added “that's where CTx comes in. We have a unique combination of skills, ranging from independent, expert scientific assessment and validation through to drug development, commercialisation and clinical application”.

CTx is now establishing its drug discovery operations in key locations throughout Australia “and has already identified a number of exciting projects to initiate its development programs", Dr Street concluded.