Griffith University’s Institute for Glycomics Associate Professor, and Griffith Alumnus, Lara Herrero received the Prize for New Innovators in the 2023 Prime Minister’s Prizes for Science at a ceremony in Canberra.
Associate Professor Herrero has drawn upon her unique combination of scientific, clinical, and public health training to impact the way viral infections are diagnosed, treated and managed.
In less than 10 years, Associate Professor Herrero translated her research to a world-first drug with the potential to treat viral arthritis by repurposing a known drug called pentosan polysulfate sodium.
This drug has the potential to treat inflammatory musculoskeletal diseases in humans with long-term debilitating symptoms such as Ross River virus (RRV).
RRV is the most common mosquito-transmitted disease in Australia with more than 5000 infections reported per year.
Associate Professor Herrero has now successfully commercialised the Intellectual Property (IP) for the novel therapeutic through an exclusive, royalty-bearing licence deal between Griffith University and Australian ASX-listed biotechnology company Paradigm Biopharmaceuticals.
“To receive the Prize for New Innovators is just a wonderful recognition for me and my team,” Associate Professor Herrero said.
“It gives me a new sense of hope for the work we are doing and how our research will continue in the future.
“I contracted Ross River virus and was sick for about two years, with excruciating pain to my muscles and joints.
“It really had a big impact on my day-to-day life, and I became passionate about understanding the disease and finding a treatment.
“Recognising there were no treatments out there for Ross River virus and that a standard drug discovery pathway could take 20 years or more, I decided to take all the information we had about the virus and embark on a drug repurposing strategy – a faster way to bring a treatment to market.
“To successfully take a drug through the entire research pathway from the laboratory bench through to clinical trials and to patients in under 10 years, is a tremendous achievement for me and our team.
“It’s so important for science and medicine to understand one another so we can find creative solutions for the world’s challenges.
“I try and mentor our next generation of scientists to understand the clinical relevance of their scientific discoveries and how basic science underpins everything we do.”
Director of the Institute for Glycomics Professor Mark von Itzstein AO said the treatment for viral arthritis is a rare achievement and an incredible demonstration of Australian innovation.
“Associate Professor Herrero is already a recognised international expert in her field having made several fundamental discoveries that have led to global impact in the understanding and treatment of viral infections,” Professor von Itzstein said.
“With its potential even yet to be fully realised the commercial, economic and health benefits of that achievement will continue to flow to Australia.”