Making drug discovery faster, cheaper and safer

A Macquarie University start-up that created a new way to develop drugs faster and more cheaply than current methods, has won a CSIRO innovation award.

Currently it takes over a decade and $2 billion to develop a new drug. Of these, four out of five will never be launched.

If we want everyone in need to have access to affordable and effective medications, we must reduce the time and cost associated with drug development, argues Molecular Sciences’ Professor Peter Karuso.

And that’s what the start-up he founded—Hyperdrive Science—is attempting to do. 

In the late 1990s, Peter was trying to understand how chemicals isolated from sponges, such as palau’amine, were able to selectively kill cancer cells.

He developed a technique called ‘reverse chemical proteomics’, which rapidly identifies the protein in your body that a drug targets to achieve its effect.

In late 2016, Peter realised his technology could better identify drug targets than what was currently being using by pharmaceutical companies, and so the company was born.

“We’re able to accelerate the identification of how a drug works from years to weeks,” explains Peter.

“Our platform can also be used to repurpose existing drugs, and to understand the basis of side effects.

“But the real power of our technology is to identify new drug targets, and address diseases which have no known cure, like multiple sclerosis.”

With Molecular Sciences colleagues Dr Paul Jaschke, Dr Kavita Ragini and Dr Fei Liu, Peter has successfully completed both of CSIRO’s ON programs—Prime and Accelerate—and last month, the team won the People’s Choice ‘Innovation IMPACT’ Award at the CSIRO ON Demo Night.

This award recognises the team with the greatest potential to create positive social, economic, or environmental impact for Australia as voted by an audience of investors, entrepreneurs, industry and government experts.

Their next step will be turning Hyperdrive Science into a fully-fledged start-up.

They are currently looking for co-founders and investors with expertise in pharmaceutical management, finance and marketing who share their vision of better, safer and more affordable medicines for everyone.

Hyperdrive Science builds on Macquarie’s proud history of pioneering research in proteomics, which aims to identify all the proteins inside a cell.

It’s the latest spin-off company from the Faculty of Science and Engineering. Other spin-offs have included Lucigem and Modular Photonics, both of which also came through CSIRO’s ON programs, and Proteome Systems and Fluorotechnics, which are listed on the Australian Stock Exchange.

Watch Peter’s presentation at CSIRO’s ON Demo Night (presentation starts at ~36:00).

Banner image credit: ON – CSIRO