Phylogica collaboration secures NHMRC grant

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A collaboration between Phylogica (ASX:PYC), the Telethon Kids Institute and the Olivia Newton John Cancer Research Institute (ONJCRI) has resulted in a grant of $750,000 to support a four-year project - 'Dual targeting of Myc and apoptosis pathways for improved blood cancer treatment outcomes'.

One of the critical genes that controls cell growth is called Myc. The production of Myc is defective in 70 per cent of all cancers making it one of the most important drivers of cancer development.

In contrast, cellular survival, s regulated by a separate family of genes called the Bcl-2, which encode proteins that regulate the natural process of cell suicide used to eliminate cells when they become damaged or are no longer needed. Levels of Bcl-2 pro-survival proteins are also high in many cancers.

The collaboration's preliminary studies have shown combining novel reagents that specifically target Myc plus Bcl-2 can lead to enhanced lymphoma cell killing.

The Investigators on the grant are Dr Doug Fairlie (ONJCRI), Adjunct Professor Paul Watt (TKI/Phylogica), Dr Erinna Lee (La Trobe University) and Dr Gemma Kelly (Walter and Eliza Hall Institute of Medical Research).

Chief investigators Fairlie and Watt also hold appointments at La Trobe University and the University of Western Australia.

“We’re delighted to have secured this support for our exciting collaboration with ONJCRI around developing novel treatments for blood cancers. ONJCRI is one of the leading research institutes in the country and is integrated with the Austin Hospital in Melbourne, which enables its strong track record of translation of research to the clinic,” said Professor Watt.

According to Dr Fairlie, “Our collaboration with Phylogica has provided us with access to what we’ve found to be the most potent direct Myc inhibitors and intracellular delivery peptides we’ve tested. This is important as Myc is a key ‘master switch’ which drives the growth of many blood cancers. The project this grant is funding will build upon exciting data we have already obtained through this alliance, which shows synergy between Phylogica’s compounds which simultaneously target Myc and drugs that inactivate the key pro-survival proteins such as Bcl-2 and Mcl-1 which cancer cells use to cheat death."