Case studies

AIBN has extensive research capabilities combined with a unique and comprehensive suite of facilities available to industrial research communities in Australia.

See below for some of our case studies

Developing next-generation smart medicines

AIBN is part of an international collaboration working towards a fully integrated biotechnology industry in Queensland, including developing next-generation smart medicines.

Dutch pharmaceutical manufacturer DSM Biologics is operating Australia’s first global, high-tech contract manufacturing facility using mammalian cells for biologic medicines and therapeutics at a $65million scale-up facility in Brisbane.

The company indicated one of the critical factors in its decision to invest in Queensland was the research facilities and expertise available at AIBN.

AIBN received $485,000 in Queensland Government research partnership funding in 2012 to build on the strategic link with DSM. It laid the groundwork for a collaboration in which AIBN develops biologic medicines and DSM produces them at the new scale-up facility at the Princess Alexandra Hospital, constructed using Federal Government funding.

Previous Queensland Government funding was used to establish BioPharmaceuticals Australia Pty Ltd (BPA), underpinned by the establishment of the National Biologics Facility at AIBN and leadership and support from UQ.

Through the partnership with DSM Biologics, BPA will bridge the chasm between the fundamental discovery of potential biopharmaceuticals and biologics, and the ability to prepare clinical grade material for human trials.

Biologics are medicines based on natural proteins made using DNA technology, offering exciting new treatment options for a wide range of diseases including cancer and auto-immune disorders.

They offer the only known potential treatment for Hendra virus infection and offer new treatment options for diseases including cancer and auto-immune disorders.

AIBN Director Professor Peter Gray said the collaboration was fitting recognition of the skill base and facilities developed in the state and provided a capability to develop next-generation smart medicines in Queensland for the first time.

“Having DSM operating a scale-up facility in Brisbane means Queensland research can be taken from the lab, through manufacturing, to the market,” Professor Gray said.

“Researchers want their work to make a difference to the lives of people outside the lab. Working on biologics at AIBN is about bringing about improvements in human health.”

It will allow biopharmaceuticals to be produced, clinically tested and manufactured in one location, with a focus on cervical and breast cancer; melanoma; liver and kidney disease; malaria; HIV; osteoporosis; obesity; arthritis; and diabetes.

Considered to be at the forefront of biomedical research, biologics are created by biologic processes rather than being chemically synthesised. Biologics based medicines now account for 17 per cent of total global therapeutic sales.

Dow Chemical Company and AIBN join forces

AIBN and the Dow Chemical Company have built a research alliance that unites AIBN’s research expertise with Dow’s market knowledge.

With the plastics industry almost exclusively dependent on fossil fuel feedstocks, escalating oil cost and concerns about carbon dioxide emissions and global warming  it is imperative to develop new manufacturing processes.

AIBN’s research excellence in metabolic engineering and polymer chemistry make an ideal fit with Dow’s position at the forefront of sustainable chemistries.

Since the research alliance was announced in late 2007, AIBN and Dow have signed two contracts worth more than $500,000, enabling contract research in synthetic biotechnology investigating the feasible production of new, bioderived chemical building blocks.

More recently, AIBN and Dow successfully initiated two Australian Research Council Linkage grants. The projects cover extreme UV lithography and fermentation routes to propionic acid and other C3 monomers.

The projects involve regular interaction between AIBN scientists and their counterparts in Dow business units.

AIBN research to develop a new generation of materials for electronics components, such as computers, smart phones and hand-held devices, will involve Professor Andrew Whittaker and Associate Professor Idriss Blakey.

International companies on board with bio jet fuel research

AIBN Senior Group Leader Professor Lars Nielsen has a pivotal role in a collaboration aiming to make Queensland a leader in cleaner, greener aviation fuel production, which entered a new phase in 2012.

Queensland Government funding to the Queensland Sustainable Aviation Fuels Initiative in 2012 will progress AIBN research to turn sucrose from sugarcane into an advanced aviation biofuel. It will also be used to investigate a business case for the technology.

The business case will investigate issues such as site requirements and scale of production on behalf of potential investors.

It will assess whether diversifying and adding new products such as advanced biofuels would make economic sense for the sugarcane industry.

The initiative’s new phase involves AIBN working with Boeing Research & Technology – Australia, GE, Mackay Sugar Ltd and IOR Energy.

It builds on AIBN research, conducted with $6.5 million in previous support from the Queensland Government, UQ and industry partners, which showed promising early results in use of sucrose fermentations to produce advanced biofuels.

Researchers used systems and synthetic biology techniques to improve the performance of microbial production strains in the process.

Success would allow the sugar industry to diversify its product portfolio, with the potential for a fermentation facility to be established near Australian sugarcane fields.

Professor Lars Nielsen said there was a clear focus on “delivering real benefits to Queensland”.

“The overall aim of the multi-stage program is to manufacture sustainable aviation fuel components from Queensland sugarcane, supply the aviation fuel market in Australasia and help seed a strong and sustainable domestic advanced biofuel industry,” he said.

Economics and sustainability are important because aviation fuels account for 5 per cent of the world’s transport fuel use and 15 per cent of Australia’s transport use.

Unlike ground transport, where electric or hydrogen cars can be used, aviation will continue to depend on liquid fuels that have a high energy content.

Vaccine delivery at core of licensing agreement

Pharmaceutical giant Merck has licensed a technology originating from AIBN to explore its use for delivery of an important vaccine.

Under the licence agreement signed in 2012, Merck will fund an extensive development program to explore the use of vaccine delivery device the Nanopatch.

The Nanopatch has thousands of small projections designed to deliver a dry-coated vaccine to abundant immune cells in the skin.

Nanopatch delivery can improve the efficiency of vaccines, including pre-clinical work achieving protection against influenza, with only 1/100th of the dose used with a traditional needle and syringe.

It is designed for thermostability and, because it is used with dry-coated vaccine, may not need refrigeration, potentially making transport much cheaper and easier, particularly to developing nations.

Nanopatch inventor and AIBN Senior Group Leader Professor Mark Kendall said the Merck partnership had the potential to accelerate the process of delivering a revolutionary health technology to people throughout the world and lead to the relief of serious health problems.

In the immediate term, it will employ more people in Brisbane’s innovation economy and boost the global reputation of Queensland and Australian research and development, he said.

“It is exciting to start this important partnership – a big step forward towards the Nanopatch becoming a vaccine delivery product,” Professor Kendall said.

“This directly builds on intensive and outstanding research on the Nanopatch – conducted by my research group at AIBN – taking the Nanopatch from an idea to achieving unprecedented immune responses in animals. Our research has been supported by competitive research grants from both the Australian and Queensland governments.”

The Nanopatch technology is being developed by spin-off biotechnology company Vaxxas, with Professor Kendall involved as company founder, director and chief technology officer.

Professor Kendall co-founded Vaxxas in 2011 with a $15 million investment from Australian and US investors to advance the Nanopatch towards clinical testing and product development.

UQ’s main commercialisation company, UniQuest, led the Nanopatch technology’s initial commercialisation before Vaxxas was created.

Through the Merck partnership, Vaxxas will be eligible to receive payments for up to two additional vaccines developed by Merck using the Nanopatch platform; milestone payments on Merck vaccine development and regulatory approvals; and royalties on sales of any Merck vaccines that ultimately use the Nanopatch platform.