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UC launches new cancer therapeutic company

Claudia Doman

11 February 2016: The University of Canberra has established a new start-up company to commercialise a novel approach to prevent the recurrence of metastasis, with an initial focus on breast cancer.

EpiAxis Therapeutics Pty Ltd will take innovative University of Canberra-led research aimed at the prevention of the spread of metastasis from bench to market.

The establishment of the company, to be tabled today at the ACT Legislative Assembly, will allow University of Canberra Professor in Molecular and Cellular Biology Sudha Rao and her team to advance their initial discovery through to a potential therapy.

Professor Rao and her team were the first to identify the key role played by the enzyme lysine specific demethylase (LSD1) within the cancer field. They further identified the role the enzyme plays in the proliferation of cancer stem cells, which they now know to be a major contributor to the recurrence of cancer following initial treatment. 

The team has since focused on testing whether inhibitors to the LSD1 target can prevent the recurrence of metastasis by prolonging tumour remission. 

"The creation of the company is exciting news. It means we can take our research into the next stage of our treatment development program," Professor Rao said.

"It will get us a bit closer to our ultimate goal, which is to find an effective therapy to decrease breast cancer recurrence, which occurs in up to 40 per cent of women who are first diagnosed."

With the support of the ACT Government and financial backing from ANU Connect Ventures, the University and two local private investors, EpiAxis Therapeutics was capitalised to support its development plan. 

The company will be based at the University of Canberra and will collaborate closely with clinicians at the Canberra Regional Cancer Centre and the Canberra Hospital throughout the pre-clinical and clinical development process.

Dr Jeremy Chrisp, renowned for his work in commercialisation of Australian medical technology, has been appointed the founding Chief Executive Officer of the company.

"I am delighted to be a part of such a promising venture," Dr Chrisp said. "I look forward to working with Sudha and her colleagues so that EpiAxis can pursue its development plan and provide a therapy for 'standard of care' to prevent metastatic disease."  

University of Canberra Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Research) and Chair of EpiAxis Therapeutics board, Professor Frances Shannon, said she is proud of the University's vision in supporting high-quality research projects such as Professor Rao's.

"It's exciting to see how good, innovative ideas can become a reality with the right support and the dedication of passionate researchers," Professor Shannon said.

"Through research commercialisation opportunities, such as EpiAxis, we are ensuring the University of Canberra is well and truly on the map of research with impact."

Everyone can support this research

In addition to EpiAxis Therapeutics, the University of Canberra has established the UC Cancer Research Fund to promote vital funding to further this research.

Your donation can help the team develop diagnostic tests which monitor the recurrence of cancer in patients and measure the effectiveness of drug therapies. The diagnostic testing is critical to fast-tracking the clinical trial process. 

Continued support from philanthropic donors is still vital. Funds donated to date have already helped advance the project by over a year. With ongoing support the team will be able to focus on continually developing and refining diagnostic tests which complement the clinical trial process; help with early detection and monitoring, which allows treatments to happen early; and will help expand the research to other forms of cancer.