Centre aims to develop radiopharmaceutical manufacturing

A new industry/academic research hub at the University of Queensland is aiming to develop Australia’s radiopharmaceutical manufacturing pipeline.

In use since the 1920s, radiopharmaceuticals are an emerging medical technology that deliver radiation therapy directly to cancer cells while sparing the rest of the body from the harsh effects of cancer treatment.

UQ’s Australian Institute for Bioengineering and Nanotechnology’s Professor Kris Thurecht said radiopharmaceuticals were a group of drugs that deliver radiation therapy directly and specifically to cancer cells.

He said: “If you want to get scientific, radiopharmaceuticals are isotopes bound to biological molecules that can target specific organs, tissues or cells.

“By focusing on very specific areas, we can reduce the collateral damage – or side effects – that the human body usually experiences during radiation therapy like hair loss, skin changes, diarrhoea and loss of taste.”

Thurecht will lead the newly created Advanced Manufacture of Targeted Radiopharmaceuticals (AMTAR) hub, established from a $5 million Australian Research Council grant and $10 million from partners.

The hub will use the capabilities and infrastructure at UQ and the University of Sydney to bring together some of the world’s best scientific minds and major pharma industry players to develop emerging radiopharmaceutical technologies.

Thurecht said: “We won’t expressly be treating patients or addressing medical outcomes, but we’ll be developing knowledge and technology platforms within the radiopharmaceutical manufacturing pipeline.

“Basically, the hub’s a one-stop shop that will help enhance Australia’s reputation in the field of radiopharmaceuticals, and importantly, open us up to lucrative commercial opportunities.”

Thurecht said a big part of the hub’s work will be assessing how radiopharmaceutical design and development can enhance commercial opportunities.

“AMTAR’s vision is to develop new technologies and establish a platform for smart-design, manufacture and quality assurance of targeted radiopharmaceuticals.

“We’ll do this through collaborative research that improves the cost-effectiveness of production while ensuring there’s a process in place to manufacture new products here in Australia.”

Picture: University of Queensland/Professor Kris Thurecht

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