Griffith University is to become the Queensland home of Australia’s newest cancer research centre.

The seven-year project will be partly funded by a $37.6m Commonwealth Cooperative Research Centre grant, and will utilise the expertise of Griffith’s drug discovery team to identify new treatments to halt the development and spread of Australia’s biggest killers; breast, prostate, ovarian, lung and bowel cancers.

The $148 million Cooperative Research Centre (CRC) for Cancer Therapeutics will be headquartered at the Walter and Eliza Hall Institute Biotechnology Centre in Victoria, with Griffith University the only Queensland partner, providing State leadership in drug discovery against cancer.

The Queensland arm of the Centre will be based at Griffith University’s Eskitis Institute for Cell and Molecular therapies in Brisbane, and will work cooperatively with other participants including Victorian research institutes, CSIRO and commercialisation partners Cancer Research Technologies (UK), Bionomics Limited and Millipore/Chemicon Corporation.

Griffith University’s Deputy Vice Chancellor – Research Lesley Johnson said the CRC would create unrivalled opportunities for Australian students to become involved in cutting-edge drug research and discovery.

“As well as creating unprecedented research opportunities for up to 200 Australian scientists, the CRC will enable students to get involved right from the outset, working with major pharmaceutical companies to develop commercially-viable drugs,” she said.

Professor Ron Quinn, Director of the Eskitis Institute, said The Eskitis Institute would be involved in developing chemical libraries, high throughput screening, structural biology and medicinal chemistry.

“The Eskitis Institute has a long standing record of interaction with the pharmaceutical industry and has undertaken drug discovery from natural product sources in collaboration with AstraZeneca since 1993,” he said.

Griffith University Program Leader Associate Professor Vicki Avery said the CRC would launch an immediate and targeted offensive against cancer.

“Our researchers will utilise a network of screening platforms at Australia’s first High-Throughput Screening facility located at Griffith University including Operaâ„¢ the nation’s only high content screening device enabling scientists to run thousands of tests each day to rapidly assess the effect of different compounds on cell function,” she said.

Work at the CRC will focus on developing a battery of new treatments that will attack cancer on a variety of different fronts including:

– Disrupting blood vessels that feed cancers

– Preventing cancer cells invading other parts of the body

– Adjunct treatment to minimise the side effects of chemo and radio therapies,

– Overcoming resistance of tumours to chemotherapies

“The goal of our contribution is to discover and optimise several small molecules for further drug development to provide our commercialisation partners with strong candidates for clinical development and eventual market launch,” Associate Professor Avery said.

Participants in the Cooperative Research Centre for Cancer Therapeutics are:

– Bio21 Australia Limited, Melbourne

– Bionomics Limited, Adelaide

– Cancer Council of Victoria, Melbourne

– Cancer Research Technology Limited, London

– CSIRO Molecular Health Technologies, Melbourne

– Griffith University Eskitis Institute for Cell and Molecular Therapies, Brisbane

– Millipore/Chemicon Australia Pty Ltd, Sydney

– Monash University/Victorian College of Pharmacy, Melbourne

– Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre, Melbourne

– St Vincent’s Institute, Melbourne

– Walter and Eliza Hall Institute for Medical Research, Melbourne

MEDIA CONTACTS: Science Communications Officer Jeannette Langan, 07 5552 8654, 0419 649 516.