Brisbane-based startup Infensa Bioscience has raised $23 million to develop a potentially life-saving treatment using deadly spider venom to prevent the damage caused by heart attacks and strokes.
The biotech company, which emerged from the University of Queensland, uses a molecule in the venom of the K’gari (Fraser Island) funnel web spider, called IB001, as the possible drug solution and discovered by a UQ research team.
Funding will go towards founding Infensa and developing the drug for clinical trials after the university’s commercialization company UniQuest licensed the idea.
The startup’s name comes from the scientific name of the K’gari funnel-web spider, Hadronyche infensa. Sydney’s funnel web is considered the world’s deadliest spider, with 13 people dying from bites in the 20th century before antivenom became readily available.
CEO of Infensa Associate Professor Mark Smythesaid there is currently no drug available to prevent the damage caused by a heart attack.
“The heart cannot regenerate muscle cells that die during a heart attack, so these injuries cause permanent damage and can lead to heart failure, disability and reduced quality of life,” said Dr Smythe.
“IB001 blocks the signals that cause heart cells to die, and when given immediately to heart attack victims, it can reduce damage to the heart and significantly improve outcomes for people with heart disease, especially in rural and remote regions. “
Professor Glenn King and Associate Professor Nathan Palpant of UQ’s Institute for Molecular Bioscience discovers last year that the drug candidate prevented cell death caused by oxygen loss to the heart and brain during heart attacks and strokes.
Professor Peter Macdonald of the Victor Chang Cardiac Research Institute and Professor Rob Widdop of Monash University The drug candidate was developed in collaboration with
dr. Smythe said IB001 could have global repercussions.
“Infensa Bioscience hopes to start Phase I clinical trials next year as a treatment for a heart attack in Queensland,” he said.
The company also plans to raise additional funds to support the development of drugs to treat stroke and extend the life of donor hearts used for organ transplants.