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  • Rights: Kiwi Innovation Network Limited
    Published 9 June 2014 Referencing Hub media

    The Auckland Cancer Society Research Centre (ACSRC) develops novel anticancer drugs. Many of the Centre’s compounds have been brought to clinical trial stage, making it one of the most productive units in the world for anticancer therapeutics. In this video clip, Professors Bill Denny and Bill Wilson (Directors, ACSRC) describe the Centre’s approach to drug development. They discuss their decision to form a company (Proacta) to work with the intellectual property of ACSRC and talk about the process of obtaining investment for Proacta.

    Teaching point
    Students can learn more about how anticancer drugs are developed on the Maurice Wilkins Centre website.


    Prof Bill Denny
    Auckland Cancer Society Research Centre has for a very long time now been involved in the generation and delivery to clinical trial of Norval drugs for cancer therapy, and it’s in one of the most productive units in the world in that regard.

    Prof Bill Wilson
    So the journey to take a new compound into clinical trial is fraught with all sorts of pitfalls. When we started out, the concept seemed obviously extremely simple and very attractive, but what we found is that we had to discover and develop a whole new technology to do it.

    Prof Bill Denny
    And if you’re serious about drug development and delivering new drugs to the clinic, you have to be involved with commercial organisations, because they have the extra expertise, they have the funding, they have the networks that allow lab inventions to be brought through into clinical trial.

    Prof Bill Wilson
    So in the course of our research, we have developed really quite a considerable depth of intellectual property. The decision about parlaying that into company formation was not taken lightly, and for me, part of the personal motivation is that I had a 30-year-old son in London working in the pharmaceutical industry earning two and a half times my salary as a professor at the University of Auckland. I think there’s a real need to develop this space in New Zealand to provide high-value opportunities for young people.

    In forming Proacta, we found it easy to attract international investment. It was much more difficult to get New Zealand investment in the company, and that’s just a lack of maturity in the investment sector here, people lacking the confidence to do due diligence in this space. That’s got to change if we’re going to fully capture the value of this enterprise.

    Prof Bill Denny
    We’ve shown over the years that New Zealanders can deliver in this particular space, and right now, the world’s undergoing a big change in the way the pharmaceutical companies operate in terms of early drug development, particularly for cancer. I think over the years, bringing a number of drugs through into clinical trial, many of which were the first in their class, with commercial partners, we’ve really put New Zealand on the map in terms of our expertise in this particular area.

    Prof Bill Wilson
    We’re proud of the fact that we’ve built a team of people who are internationally the top of the list in that regard.

    Video courtesy of Kiwi Innovation Network Limited
    © Kiwi Innovation Network Limited, 2013

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