BTF backs creation of new Perth-based biotech


A new Perth-based biotechnology company has been launched with a $20 million commitment from the Medical Research Commercialisation Fund’s Biomedical Translation Fund (MRCF BTF).

Respirion Pharmaceuticals has been launched to develop a novel antibiotic therapy for the treatment of Cystic Fibrosis (CF).

The therapy combines an inhaled version of an approved drug that is normally used to capture and dispose of excess metals in the bloodstream with tobramycin in a novel formulation and device.

The Biomedical Translation Fund was created by the federal government in 2016 to support the commercialisation of biomedical discoveries. It combines $250 million in government funding, matched with privately secured capital, with independent investment firms managing the funds. Brandon Capital Partners was appointed to manage the $230 million MRCF BTF.

It has committed up to $20 million in collaboration with the Telethon Kids Institute, where the potential new CF treatment was developed, for the creation of Perth-based Respirion.

According to MRCF, an initial trial using the technology saw an average 16 per cent improvement in lung function compared to 5 per cent using tobramycin alone, with patients on the combination also experiencing a 400 times greater reduction in bacterial load.

The US-based Cystic Fibrosis Foundation has committed up to US$3 million in funding to the development program.

Clinical studies will be conducted in coordination with the CF Foundation Therapeutics Development Network.

“Cystic Fibrosis is a debilitating, genetic disease where persisting lung infections and progressive lung damage severely limit the quality and length of life of those with it,” says Dr Kath Giles, Respirion director and consultant with Brandon Capital Partners. “Early signals from the initial patient study, and the broader scientific support for new antibacterial options, make this one of the most exciting therapies under development in this area.”

Persistent antibiotic-resistant infections and declining lung function remain a significant problem for CF patients.

“Persistent lung infections and the inevitable decline in lung function remain urgent unmet needs in Cystic Fibrosis,” said Respirion founder and director, Dr Barry Clements. “My daily experience in treating Cystic Fibrosis patients for over thirty years at Perth Children’s Hospital, led me to the realisation that if we are to improve the reduction in bacterial load, and ultimately the fatal lung damage that occurs as a result of these infections, new approaches are imperative.

“We’re excited to be working with the MRCF, whose investment will help us make that critical step from research to the eventual clinical use of a potential treatment.”