Portrait photo of UQ Professor Trent Munro wearing a white coat in a laboratory. Supplied.
AIBN's Professor Trent Munro says Cassowary Pharmaceuticals will develop drugs which could revolutionise pain management. Image, supplied.
4 November 2022

Precision painkillers that are more accurate and less harmful to the liver are set to be developed by a University of Queensland spin-off company — potentially changing the lives of millions of people.

Professor Trent Munro, from the Australian Institute for Bioengineering and Nanotechnology (AIBN), is the scientific co-founder of Cassowary Pharmaceuticals Pty Ltd which is creating a new range of hyper-targeted medications.

Professor Munro said the drugs would help treat debilitating and chronic pain conditions associated with cancer, sciatica, post-herpetic neuralgia (a painful condition that can follow shingles), peripheral nerve injury and osteoarthritis.

"This type of targeted therapy reduces the potential side effects and safety issues associated with current pain treatments, and will also mean fewer doses are required,” Professor Munro said.

"Creating drugs with these attributes could change the lives of millions of people who suffer from chronic neuropathic pain.”

Professor Munro said up to 10 per cent of the adult population were affected by neuropathic pain, and current treatments often presented problems.

“Many existing treatments are ineffective in large numbers of patients, and carry significant risk of side-effects, including addiction,” he said.

Cassowary Pharma’s drug candidate targets a molecule thought to be important in how the human body senses pain.

“By building on the pioneering discoveries of Emeritus Professor Maree Smith, and using the critical tools developed in the laboratory of UQ’s Professor Greg Monteith, we can create a drug that is very accurate, avoids the risk of liver toxicity, and lessens the overall medication load,” Professor Munro said.

“After receiving funding from the Medical Research Future Fund’s (MRFF) national $40 million CUREator Scheme, Cassowary Pharma anticipates identifying a lead candidate over the next 18 months as a stepping stone to clinical trials.”

Professor Munro said shaping Cassowary Pharma’s goals was a collaborative effort, involving Dr Lucia Zacchi of the School of Chemistry and Molecular Bioscience and AIBN’s Dr Martina Jones.

It was one of four UQ start-ups to receive funding earlier this year, which are each working to find new treatments for a diverse range of hard-to-treat conditions.

UQ’s commercialisation company UniQuest CEO Dr Dean Moss congratulated Cassowary Pharma and said the funding recognised the leadership role that UQ plays in technology transfer and commercialisation.

“I am always excited to acknowledge how innovative research excellence from UQ’s institutes, faculties and schools is translated into real-world impact,” Dr Moss said.

Interview with Professor Munro available via Dropbox

Media: AIBN Communications, Alex Druce, a.druce@phillycheckpoint.com, +61 (0)447 305 979; AIBN Industry Professor Trent Munro, t.munro@phillycheckpoint.com, +61 (0)499 880 791; UQ Communications, communications@phillycheckpoint.com, +61 (0)429 056 139.