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Home-grown biotech innovator raises AU$2 million to fight cancer in world first trials

Dr Matt Harris
Clarity Pharmaceuticals, one of Australia’s few, clinical-stage biotech startups has recently raised $2 million to progress its world first, cancer-fighting therapy in new clinical trials, using its pioneering drug targeting technology.
The investment will fund a Phase IIa trial of the company’s new cancer therapy SARTATE™ – a radiobiological product that identifies and kills cancerous cells – in neuroendocrine tumours, as well as fast-track clinical trials of SARTATE™ in aggressive childhood cancers.

As Australia falls behind OECD countries on collaborative research-based innovation – now high on the Government agenda – Clarity Pharmaceuticals is one example of a home-grown biotech successfully commercialising on its innovation to treat serious disease (and with strong results). It is one of a small number of local biotechs to receive a $1 million grant under the Government’s Accelerating Commercialisation scheme earlier this year.

The investment round includes strong support from the company’s newly appointed Non-Executive Director, Dr Chris Roberts, and fellow Directors Dr Alan Taylor and Dr Matt Harris, as well as funding from current shareholders and collaborators including: The Australian Nuclear Science and Technology Organisation (ANTSO); the University of Melbourne; and, ATP Innovations incubator – a commercialising hub that supports emerging technology businesses.

What exactly is Clarity Pharmaceuticals doing?

Using SARTATE™, Clarity Pharmaceuticals is pioneering the world’s first use of copper radioisotopes for the diagnosis, dosimetry and treatment of cancer, following the completion of their first-in-human trial last year. The results of this first trial will be presented by Clarity Pharmaceuticals and its clinical collaborators at the annual meeting of the prestigious Society of Nuclear Medicine and Molecular Imaging in San Diego in June.

“Modern day medicine is at war with cancer,” said Dr Alan Taylor, Clarity Pharmaceuticals Executive Chairman. “Instead of trying to destroy the enemy with heavy force that affects patients and causes massive destruction to the body, such as in the use of chemotherapy, Clarity’s strategy is to use targeted therapies.”

“By using a more targeted approach, it becomes possible to destroy cancers in a localised manner and minimise collateral damage. It is also crucial to identify the type of cancer or tumour first.

“Personalised medicine allows for better identification of tumours through advanced medical imaging, which enables clinicians to estimate the optimal dose and prescribe the right amount of the drug to the patient. The second step allows the destruction of the tumour in a localised manner, enabling increased effectiveness and decreased damage, or side-effects, to healthy cells.

“This two-step approach is called “theranostics”, combining the benefits of both therapy and diagnostics to treat cancer.

“SARTATE™ is a product that allows clinicians to diagnose and treat a range of cancers in a localised manner. It is based on Clarity’s proprietary SAR Technology, which enables SARTATE™’s mechanism of action, but can be used more broadly to create other drugs that target different cancers.

“Thus, Clarity has the potential to create a pipeline of products that diagnose and treat not only neuroendocrine tumours and childhood cancers, but also a wider variety of serious disease in both adults and children.”
Dr Alan Taylor
Dr Alan Taylor

Why has Clarity attracted this funding?

Dr Taylor said, “We initially sought to raise AU$1 million but have received significant support and interest by investors. The capital raising puts us in a strong position to progress SARTATE™ in Phase II trials, as well as grow our existing portfolio of projects, with a focus on personalised medicine.”

Pharmaceutical technology and nuclear medicine is fast emerging as an attractive market for investment. By 2020, its market value is forecast to exceed AU$9 billion globally*. “New, non-invasive technologies and targeted therapies such as SARTATE™ are disrupting the way patients are treated for serious illness, paving the way for safer and more effective patient outcomes,” said Dr Taylor.

Dr Matt Harris, Clarity Pharmaceuticals CEO, added, “In Australia, academic medical innovation is strong but we are yet to build an ecosystem that supports the commercialisation of research-based innovation. This type of incentivised innovation is only now emerging as a priority on the Federal Government’s National Science and Innovation agenda – which identifies Australia as falling behind OECD countries when it comes to commercialisation and business-research collaboration.”

Dr Taylor said that Clarity Pharmaceuticals is quickly developing as a pioneering biotech amongst a small breed of home-grown radiation technology companies. This is supported by Australia’s strong understanding of radiation sciences driven by ANSTO, as well as local companies, such as SirTex, who have successfully commercialised radiation technologies.

“We are fortunate to have strong collaborations with outstanding academic and clinical partners in Australia, enabling us to progress from benchtop through to clinical development. Our collaborative approach to science is demonstrating benefits to commercial, academic, clinical and government organisations. We are committed to promoting this collaborative approach to science in Australia,” said Dr Taylor.

Clarity Pharmaceuticals has raised more than AU$7 million in total since inception, including approximately AU$3 million in grants from the Federal Government. Clarity Pharmaceuticals’ last capital raise was AU$1.1 million in 2014, which included strong support from Dr Taylor and other Sydney-based strategic and financial investors, including angel investment group Sydney Angels – a group of angel investors whose members invest in innovative early-stage companies with high-growth potential.

Founded in 2010 by Dr Matt Harris with AU$650,000 in seed capital, Clarity Pharmaceuticals commercialises cutting-edge therapy and diagnostic imaging technology initially developed by ANSTO and the University of Melbourne.

Dr Taylor added, “Our core focus right now is developing our clinical pipeline by performing proof-of-concept studies in pre-clinical and clinical trials. Using latest technologies to produce personalised medicines such as SARTATE™, we aim to transition drug candidates to humans and determine their efficacy as a therapy in poorly treated diseases, such as some solid cancers in adults and children, as well as cardiovascular disease and fibrosis.”

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