Melbourne partnership to accelerate drug development

Melbourne partnership to accelerate drug development

Illuminate newsletter header, Autumn 22
March 2022
WEHI has joined forces with CSL, one of the world’s leading biotech companies, to create a Centre for Biologic Therapies.

Biologics have had a transformational impact on treatment for cancer, inflammatory and immunological disorders and infectious diseases – most recently SARS-CoV-2.

Visualisation of antibodies (orange) binding to the spike
proteins on the surface of the SARS-CoV-2 virus, (teal and
yellow), breaking the infection cycle. Image: Dr Drew Berry

The new centre combines WEHI’s expertise in immunology, cancer, inflammatory disorders and infectious diseases with CSL’s world-class human antibody library and experience in biologic drug discovery and development.

Based at WEHI, the centre will provide access to expert biologic discovery and optimisation capabilities accelerating drug development into the clinic, ultimately addressing a current gap in Australian medical research.

The centre aims to generate high quality and clinic-ready therapeutic antibodies against new targets in human disease. The partners will contribute equal funding to the centre, with a combined investment of $10M for the next five years.

Expanding translation capability

WEHI director Professor Doug Hilton AO said the expansion to biologic therapeutic development capabilities within the centre would complement WEHI’s existing translational capacity in small molecule drug discovery.

“The centre is part of WEHI’s commitment to collaborative, innovative research for discovery and translation to improve disease prevention, diagnosis and treatment.

“The current COVID-19 pandemic has shown us the great need for these types of facilities, which have helped us expedite the development of anti-viral treatments,” he said.

Local facility with a global impact

CSL’s Chief Scientific Officer, Dr Andrew Nash, said the effective translation of local discoveries into novel therapies for patients was vitally important.

“This expansion of our relationship with WEHI will help ensure that the long-term investment of public funds into medical research in Australia is translated, benefitting both patients and the Australian economy,” he said.

“The centre will offer a place of learning and bespoke training opportunities for the next generation of promising Australian scientists – the future of Australia’s biologics workforce.”

The development of the Centre for Biologic Therapies was made possible with the assistance of philanthropic support from the estates of siblings John and Mary Thompson.


Super Content: 
Visualisation of SARS-CoV-2

WEHI researchers are studying ‘nanobodies’ – tiny immune proteins made by alpacas – in a bid to understand whether they might be effective in blocking SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19.

Researchers and Health Minister with robotic equipment

The Australian Government has committed to $25 million in funding to enhance drug discovery capabilities at the Institute’s Drug Discovery Centre. 

Scientist in the National Drug Discovery Centre

The NDDC enables medical researchers to access ultra-high throughput screening, fast tracking scientific discoveries into new medicines.