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Queensland scientists collaborate to discover medical uses for an Australian virus

Queensland Government scientists at the Department of Health Services have collaborated with scientists at The University of Queensland (UQ) and the Queensland Institute of Medical Research (QIMR) to discover new medical uses for the Kunjin virus.

“The Kunjin virus is an Australian native member of the flavivirus family, which is geographically restricted to Northern Australia,” said Associate Professor Alex Khromykh, who developed the technology at the Sir Albert Sakzewski Virus Research Centre (Queensland Health).

“Genetic engineering techniques have been used to design novel, safe and non-infectious forms of Kunjin that show early promise as gene delivery vectors. These vectors may be used for the delivery of vaccines and gene therapy treatments to treat important diseases such as HIV/AIDS and cancer,” says Associate Professor Khromykh.

“The KUNrep technology also has significant prospects as a new method for the production of therapeutic proteins, which may be used by many of the world’s pharmaceutical companies” said Associate Professor Khromykh.

Replikun Biotech Pty Ltd (Replikun), a start-up company, has been formed by QIMR to further develop and commercialise the KUNrep technology.

“This is a wonderful example of the Queensland Government’s Smart State initiative in action where intellectual property was discovered by scientists in the government sector at the Department of Health Services and then collaboratively developed further with scientists at QIMR and UQ” said the Premier, the Honorable Peter Beattie.

“This compelling science provides opportunities to develop new therapies for diseases such as HIV infection and cancer” said Mr Nuttall, Minster of Health. “This new Australian technology which uses an Australian native virus as its starting point, gives us a new angle for tackling the successful development of vaccines against infectious diseases and cancer, which up to now have been difficult to combat”.

“Replikun Biotech is the latest start-up company to win support from our $39 million Innovation Investment Fund” said Dr Shane Storey of Start-up Australia. “The potential uses and market size for this technology was very attractive, as was the strength of the intellectual property portfolio protecting it. Start-up Australia has committed $1.875 million to further the research and to grow Replikun’s business”.

“It is pleasing to see investment in Australian technology by Australian venture capital, which originates from an Australian virus discovered by Australian scientists” said the Premier. “This is an example of the research value that can be created from Australia’s mega biodiversity”.

About Start-up Australia

Start-up Australia is a venture capital company which specialises in the following industries: Human Health, Animal Health, Food, Agribusiness and the Environment. Start-up’s mission is to invest capital from institutional investors in Australian companies with high growth potential and provide a good return on investment. Start-up Australia considers proposals from companies in the early stage of business development and in most cases is the first investor in its portfolio companies. Start-up Australia is an investor in the following companies: Alchemia, EvoGenix, Kinacia, Mimetica, Promics, Protagonist, Technico and Cortical and Replikun Biotech. For more information:

About Replikun Biotech Pty Ltd

Replikun Biotech Pty Ltd (Replikun) was formed by QIMR to further develop and commercialise the KUNrep technology. Replikun has raised $1.875 million in start-up funding from one of Australias’ leading venture capitalists, Start-up Australia, to support the first phases of KUNrep’s development. Replikun has an exclusive, worldwide licence to commercialise the KUNrep technology.There is a large unmet need in the vaccine and gene therapy markets for a safe and robust delivery system. The current market for vaccines and gene therapies has an estimated value of $22 billion.A major objective of Replikun is for the KUNrep technology to be the method of choice for delivering antigens or genes to patients, thus creating valuable medical products. Replikun will create value by partnering with biopharmaceutical companies and incorporating their gene/antigen into their KUNrep systems.

About the Queensland Institute of Medical Research

Established in 1945 by the Queensland Government, The Queensland Institute of Medical Research (QIMR) is one of the largest medical research institutes in the southern hemisphere, and is recognised worldwide for the quality of its research. Originally formed to further the study of tropical diseases in North Queensland, QIMR has over its nearly 60 years’ history broadened its scope to include the immunological, biological and molecular basis of a wide range of infectious diseases, cancers and other disorders. QIMR’s strategy is to create an integrated approach to biomedical research. In addition to state of the art research laboratories, QIMR also has facilities for the cGMP manufacture of cell-based and molecular therapies. Also, co-located within the Institute is a commercial Phase I/II clinical trials facility, called Q-Pharm, allowing QIMR scientists and external clients the extended and unique capability for taking research findings “from the bench to the bedside”.