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Grant win for cell and gene therapies

23 August 2018
Four University researchers win NSW Health grants
Four University of Sydney researchers have received grants worth $5 million from the NSW government to support trials for cell and gene therapies to treat rare genetic conditions and cancer.

Professor Ian Alexander from Sydney Medical School and the Children’s Hospital at Westmead has been awarded $2 million to develop CAR T cells to target a broad range of paediatric tumours, and CAR T cells to protect kidney transplants from chronic allograft nephropathy, the leading cause of kidney transplant failure.

Professor Alexander said the grant will also develop gene viral vectors to target blinding eye disease and treat childhood kidney disease.

“This grant will enable us to quickly initiate desperately needed paediatric trials for cancer, eye and kidney disease,” he said.

Associate Professor Greg Neely, Head of the Dr John and Anne Chong Lab for Functional Genomics in the Charles Perkins Centre and the School of Life and Environmental Sciences, received $810,000 to develop a stem cell-based therapy to eliminate or reduce chronic pain.

We have been working on a new stem cell therapy that provides long lasting relief from neuropathic pain, and this funding will allow us to rapidly develop this technology for use in humans for the first time.
Associate Professor Greg Neely

Grant funding will enable Professor David Gottlieb from Sydney Medical School and Western Sydney Local Health District to run a randomised clinical trial to compare standard treatment for cytomegalovirus or CMV infection after transplant, with the addition of cellular immunotherapy.

“We hope the addition of T cell treatment will improve immune reconstitution and prevent infection after transplant,” Professor Gottlieb said.

Professor John Rasko AO from Central Clinical School, Centenary Institute, and Head of the Department, Cell &Molecular Therapies, at Royal Prince Alfred Hospital was announced as the presenter of the prestigious 2018 Boyer Lectures earlier this week. He received grant funding to build on his team’s recent clinical success using gene therapy to cure haemophilia, published in the New England Journal of Medicine. As President of the International Society for Cell & Gene Therapy his leadership role in Australian cell and gene therapy is widely acknowledged.

“This grant will allow us to determine the specific mechanisms that improve gene transfer efficiencies into cells. It will identify new avenues to broadly enhance gene and cell therapies in patients with unmet needs in many genetic diseases and cancer,” he said.

Gene therapy involves the delivery of DNA into cells. One method is through the use of viruses also called viral vectors. All four of the funded projects will develop manufacturing capacity for clinical-grade gene transfer vectors in NSW.

Dr Antonio Penna, Executive Director of the Office of Health and Medical Research, said the funding will support NSW researchers to remain at the forefront of these rapidly-moving fields.

“The funding will provide real benefits to patients and improve the quality of health care across NSW,” said Dr Penna.

Find out more about the NSW Health Cell and Gene Therapy grants.

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