News Release 

New National Drug Discovery Center to fast-track medicines to patients

A state-of-the-art facility to fast-track new medicines for patients will today be opened by Australian Minister for Health the Hon. Greg Hunt MP and Victorian Minister for Health the Hon. Jenny Mikakos MP at the Walter and Eliza Hall Institute

Walter and Eliza Hall Institute

The $75 million-dollar centre will advance Australia's drug discovery capabilities and reduce the time it takes to bring new medicines to market. The NDDC was generously supported by $25 million from the Australian Government and $18 million from the Victorian Government, with a $32 million investment from the Walter and Eliza Hall Institute, which includes income from the sale of venetoclax royalties and philanthropic gifts.

The launch will include announcement of the first two successful recipients of a federal government subsidy to support drug discovery for cancer immunotherapy and type 2 diabetes. The subsidy will cover 90 per cent of the cost of using the NDDC, reducing the cost of a traditional screening campaign - normally upwards of $300,000 - to around $30,000-$45,000.

Minister Hunt said the Australian and Victorian governments had worked together to establish the centre, the first of its kind in Australia.

"This centre will allow medical researchers to fast-track the development of new drugs to treat common and rare diseases, improving the quality of life for many Australians," Mr Hunt said.

Minister Mikakos said the centre would combine specialist expertise with cutting-edge technology.

"This will be a game changer for Victoria's world-class researchers who now have the equipment they need to turn their biomedical discoveries into new medicines - bringing life-saving treatments to patients, sooner," Ms Mikakos said.

Walter and Eliza Hall Institute director Professor Doug Hilton AO thanked the Australian and Victorian governments, and philanthropic donors, for their investment, and for recognising the importance of the NDDC to the Australian medical research sector.

"For many years the translation of world-class Australian research into new medicines has been hampered by a lack of capacity for drug development. This meant many promising research discoveries were either never pursued, or researchers were forced overseas to develop their research into new therapies," Professor Hilton said.

"The Walter and Eliza Hall Institute is proud to have led the establishment of a centre that will fill a vital gap in Australia's drug discovery pipeline. The centre will enable our colleagues from Australian research institutes, universities and small-to-medium enterprises to advance their research beyond the bench and provide them with world-class facilities and staff as they fast-track their drug discovery journeys."

The first two recipients of Australian Government-subsidised screens will be projects to find new medicines for type 2 diabetes and cancer immunotherapy.

Associate Professor Anthony Don, from the University of Sydney and Centenary Institute, will lead a project to develop new drugs that reverse systemic insulin resistance that causes type 2 diabetes, without the side effect of additional weight gain associated with most existing drugs.

Professor Matthias Ernst from La Trobe University and the Olivia Newton-John Cancer Research Institute will receive a subsidy to identify new immunotherapy cancer treatments, uncovering ways of making cancer tumours less visible to the immune system and enhance the effect of anti-tumour immune therapies. The findings could lead to new anti-cancer drugs that could treat breast, bowel, pancreatic and other solid tumours.

Round two applications for subsidised access to the NDDC close on 23 March with successful recipients chosen by an independent panel. There will be two funding rounds per year with increasing capacity until 2022. Find out more at the National Drug Discovery Centre's website.

Quotes attributable to Federal Minister for Health Greg Hunt:

"This centre will allow medical researchers to fast-track the development of new drugs to treat common and rare diseases, improving the quality of life for many Australians."

"Our governments have worked together to establish this centre which is the first of its kind in Australia."

Quotes attributable to Victorian Minister for Health Jenny Mikakos:

"This will be a game changer for Victoria's world-class researchers who now have the equipment they need to turn their biomedical discoveries into new medicines - bringing life-saving treatments to patients, sooner."

"It will combine specialist expertise with cutting-edge technology right here in Melbourne - and is also accessible to researchers from around Australia."

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About the Walter and Eliza Hall Institute:

The Walter and Eliza Hall Institute of Medical Research is one of Australia's leading biomedical research organisations, with a national and international reputation for performing highly influential basic and translational research. With more than 1100 researchers addressing some of the major health challenges of our time, with a focus on cancer, immune health and infection, and development and ageing. We are at the forefront of research innovation, with a strong commitment to excellence and investment in research computing, advanced technologies and developing new medicines and diagnostics.

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