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Queensland Emory Drug Discovery Initiative (QEDDI) will fuel drug development pipeline

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Holly Korschun

A research partnership between Emory University and the University of Queensland (UQ) aims to accelerate the discovery and development of new drugs to treat cancer, diabetes, inflammatory disorders and infectious diseases.

The Queensland Emory Drug Discovery Initiative (QEDDI) will be led by UQ's main commercialization company, UniQuest, through a financial commitment from UQ.

The new initiative builds on the Queensland Emory Development Alliance launched in 2012, and will benefit from the medicinal chemistry and drug discovery expertise of the Emory Institute for Drug Development (EIDD), led by Dennis Liotta, PhD and George Painter, PhD, and Drug Innovation Ventures at Emory (DRIVE), an Emory-associated not-for-profit biotechnology company led by George Painter, PhD.

QEDDI is expected to emulate Emory's DRIVE model and bridge the gap between discoveries in laboratories at UQ leading to small molecule drug candidates and new therapeutic drugs available to physicians and patients through the global marketplace. It also will focus on developing and enhancing strategic partnerships with major pharmaceutical companies.

The alliance was announced at the International BIO Conference in Philadelphia by UQ Vice Chancellor and President Peter Høj.

"Too often, promising biological discoveries that increase our understanding of human disease don't translate into the discovery of small molecule drug candidates, which can lead to new therapeutic drugs," says Høj.

QEDDI builds on significant track records in drug development at both institutions, including the cervical cancer vaccine Gardasil from UQ and HIV AIDS drugs discovered at Emory and used by more than 90 percent of HIV patients on antiretroviral therapy.

"The fact that EIDD and DRIVE at Emory University are willing to make their expertise available to UQ and UniQuest in the establishment and running of QEDDI is fantastic," Høj says. "QEDDI is an extension of the relationship built over several years of collaborative research and commercial partnerships. It allows QEDDI to be aided by Emory's unprecedented success in drug discovery and development."

Emory President James W. Wagner said the relationship around QEDDI would be mutually beneficial. "This initiative builds on the established goodwill between our two institutions. Emory and UQ share a common desire to translate our research efforts into positive global transformation, and this collaboration among EIDD, DRIVE and UniQuest will help serve this vision.

"Given their focus on infectious disease, EIDD and DRIVE will also benefit from UQ's expertise. Our ultimate goal is to develop effective drugs for challenging diseases with global impact," he says.

QEDDI's advisory board includes Dennis Liotta (Executive Director, EIDD) and George Painter, PhD, (Director, EIDD and CEO, DRIVE), with business development and commercialization driven by UniQuest.

QEDDI will be physically based at UQ's bioscience precinct at its St. Lucia (Brisbane) campus. This will provide access to the specialized equipment and infrastructure required for drug discovery and development. QEDDI will be established in the second half of 2015.

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