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QIMR researchers Eureka finalists

Researchers from the Queensland Institute of Medical Research (QIMR) and Peplin Inc. (formerly Peplin Ltd) have been nominated for the 2010 Eureka Prize for Medical Research Translation.

Dr Jim Aylward from Peplin Ltd. worked together with Professor Peter Parsons, Professor Andreas Suhrbier, Dr Sarah-Jane Cozzi and Dr Steven Ogbourne from QIMR, to develop an anti-cancer drug from the milky sap of the common weed, Euphorbia peplus (also known as radium weed or petty spurge).

The research has led to the development of a topical drug (called ingenol mebutate), which has shown excellent results in phase II and III human clinical trials of non-melanoma skin cancer and solar keratoses. Peplin Inc, the Queensland-based company that developed the new treatment, was recently sold to LEO Pharma A/S for US $287.5 million, one of Queensland’s largest biotech deals.

Skin cancers are one of the most common cancers in the world, and in Australia, non-melanoma skin cancer is the most commonly diagnosed cancer. If approved by regulatory authorities such as the Therapeutic Goods Administration, ingenol mebutate will offer an effective andsimple two day treatment that also results in an excellent cosmetic outcome.

Professor Suhrbier from QIMR’s Immunovirology Laboratory said it is a great honour to be listed as a finalist for this prestigious prize. “Its good to see that we have the skills, determination and resources in Australia to develop an entirely new anti-cancer drug and successfully take it to the international market.”

The Eureka Prize shortlist recognises the year’s most innovative and influential scientists, together with the country’s top science communicators and teachers.

In its 21st year, the annual celebration, dubbed the “Oscars of Australian science” offers 20 awards, with total prize money of $190,000. This includes prizes for Outstanding Medical Research Translation, Early Career Research, Innovation in Computer Science, and Advancement of Climate Change Knowledge.

All the winners of the 2010 Eureka Prizes will be revealed on 17 August at the Randwick Pavilion at Sydney’s Royal Randwick Racecourse. (