New rheumatoid arthritis treatment moves a step closer to reality

The collaboration with Johnson & Johnson pharmaceutical company Janssen Biotech Inc will see the new vaccine move closer to a phase 1 clinical trial.

UQ Diamantina Institute lead autoimmunity researcher Professor Ranjeny Thomas said the development and potential commercialisation of the immunotherapy treatment could eventually benefit the world’s millions of rheumatoid arthritis sufferers.

Rheumatoid arthritis is a painful condition caused by immune system dysfunction. It destroys joints and causes cardiovascular complications that can reduce life spans by 10 years.

The technology is being commercialised by Dendright Pty Ltd, a start-up company of UniQuest. UniQuest is UQ’s main commercialisation company.

The technology behind the treatment differs from existing drugs in that it results in a targeted therapy and allows suitable patients to be selected based on specific biomarkers, thereby improving response rates.

It targets the underlying cause of rheumatoid arthritis rather than simply treating the inflammatory symptoms.

It is hoped the treatment will prove effective for rheumatoid arthritis patients and that it could lead to innovation of treatments for other diseases, such as type 1 diabetes.

Dendright received seed funding from Janssen in 2012 to undertake early preclinical development studies, and the new collaboration will build on the outcomes of that work.

“We are very pleased to be continuing and strengthening our strategic collaboration with Janssen, focussing on the application of our platform technology towards rheumatoid arthritis”, Professor Thomas said.

“Our goal is to provide rheumatoid arthritis patients with a new, safe therapy for the management of their disease, with the possibility of disease prevention in the future.”

UQ Acting President and Vice-Chancellor Professor Deborah Terry congratulated Professor Thomas, her UQ Diamantina Institute team for progressing an industry collaboration with the goal of making inroads into a painful and widespread disease.

“This is a great example of UQ researchers collaborating with industry and our commercialisation experts, with their sights fixed on transforming excellent science into life-enhancing products,” Professor Terry said.

Media contact: Caroline Davy, Marketing & Communications Manager, P: (07) 3443 7027 E: [email protected]

About Dendright Pty Ltd

Dendright Pty Ltd was established in 2005 by UniQuest Pty Ltd and assisted by grants from the Queensland Government’s Innovation Start-up Scheme and the Australian Government’s Biotechnology Innovation Fund so that Professor Ranjeny Thomas and her team could focus on finding a way for the body’s own immune system to “re-educate” the cells that cause autoimmune diseases. Professor Thomas’ research at The University of Queensland’s Diamantina Institute has also been supported by Arthritis Queensland, a peak community organisation, the Australian Research Council and Australia’s National Health and Medical Research Council.

In addition to the RA therapy in preclinical development, the Dendright platform technology is being used to develop new therapies for type 1 diabetes.

About UniQuest Pty Limited

UniQuest is the main commercialisation company of The University of Queensland (UQ), specialising in the commercialisation of intellectual property, research outcomes and expertise. UniQuest delivers commercialisation outcomes which are valuable for UQ and profound for business, the environment, global communities and society as a whole.

UniQuest’s two business offerings – IP Commercialisation and Expertise Commercialisation – are designed to support UQ’s global strategy, industry engagement and reputation for excellence. UniQuest benchmarks in the top 10 percent globally for university-based technology transfer. UniQuest-licensed UQ innovations are now generating annual sales of $3 billion. UQ superconductor technology, through licensing arrangements, is used in two-thirds of the world’s MRIs and more than 79 million doses of the life-saving Gardasil® cervical cancer vaccine, patented by UniQuest in 1991, have been distributed throughout 121 countries, including 72 developing countries.

For more information about UniQuest, please visit