The AdAlta team are developing a unique class of antibodies called i-bodies to fight fibrotic diseases: debilitating and potentially fatal conditions caused by internal organ scarring. Their first target is a form of lung fibrosis, which has an average survival time of just four years post diagnosis.
After almost 15 years in the lab, AdAlta has successfully completed the first part of its Phase 1 clinical trials for its lead i-body drug candidate, AD-214. They are progressing rapidly to complete Phase 1 safety studies with multiple AD-214 doses in healthy volunteers. Initial investigations in patients with fibrotic lung disease are also commencing in 2021 prior to Phase II studies in 2022.
‘Clinical trials are a huge coming of age for any biotech,’ says CEO Tim Oldham.
And it couldn’t come fast enough.
‘I get a call or email every month, if not every week, from a lung fibrosis patient trying to get onto our trials. The unmet need is that high.’
For AdAlta, co-location at La Trobe University was initially a decision of convenience: The University was a member of the Co-operative Research Centre for Diagnostics that developed the original intellectual property, so setting up a base at Bundoora and a research agreement with La Trobe made good sense.
However, over time, Tim says the partnership has become a crucial support for the company.
‘We could not have been here without support from La Trobe.’
When Tim lists the clearest benefits of the co-location deal, it’s plain to see why this relationship works; ‘La Trobe provided access to essential resources that would have been prohibitively expensive for a start-up company. We essentially pay for lab space but have access to so much more,’ says Tim.
‘We have access to specialist scientific services such as next generation sequencing capabilities, and mass spectrometry facilities; ancillary and shared services such as fridges and freezers plugged into the building management system so they're monitored at all times; a tissue culture room; back office support such as HR; and another big advantage: access to the library.’
As AdAlta grows into its next phase another enormous benefit lies in the expertise of the University’s researchers. ‘Through the University’s talent we have ready access to certain skills and capabilities, which we can scale up and down as required.’
Into the future
There is excitement in what lies ahead at La Trobe. The State Government recently announced funding support to build two new Innovation Hubs at the Bundoora campus. Tim believes that these new hubs will be the catalyst for the creation of more companies like AdAlta. Designed to facilitate bioinnovation and digital transformation, these initiatives provide invaluable support to companies and demonstrate how La Trobe is creating a University City of the Future through collaborative research, open education, scientific innovation and a place for companies like AdAlta to prosper.
Tim is excited to see where La Trobe’s ‘University City of the Future’ goes. ‘The Nirvana down the track would be to mimic what happens in Boston. You wander down to any coffee shop in Cambridge Square, and all you can hear is people from all the different institutes discussing their research projects.’
It’s more than a pipe dream: as AdAlta knows, big things can grow from small beginnings.