Australia’s largest child health research institute, Murdoch Childrens Research Institute (MCRI), comes a step closer to finding a cure for peanut allergies after receiving $15 million in venture capital funding led by OneVentures.
Through the OneVentures Innovation and Growth Fund II, the Australian life sciences and technology venture capital firm will invest $8 million in Probiotic Therapies for Allergy (ProTA), the company established to commercialise the technology in peanut allergy, and explore other indications.
The new therapy created by MCRI will allow children with peanut allergy to incorporate peanut and peanut products as a regular part of their diet.
The novel approach, a brain child of MCRI’s Professor Mimi Tang, combines peanut allergen with a specific probiotic which has shown via clinical trials, to induce “tolerance” towards peanuts. The approach has the potential to be adapted to treat other common food allergies including allergies to milk, egg, shellfish and other nuts.
The treatment is already attracting the attention of global pharmaceutical companies, and late stage negotiations are underway to secure an additional $7 million from strategic investors and partners of OneVentures.
Dr Paul Kelly, Managing Partner of OneVentures, and head of the LifeSciences team said, “OneVentures will play an active role in bringing ProTA’s treatment to market, and assist with the management of clinical development and navigating the regulatory pathway, and bringing international partners to the table, as it has done with previous investments, including Hatchtech.”
Food allergy affects approximately 250 million people worldwide and has increased 350 per cent over the past 20 years with peanut allergy increasing at the greatest rate.
In 2015, MCRI conducted a study where 62 children with peanut allergies were given either a dose of probiotic, Lactobacillus rhamnosus, together with a peanut protein in increasing amounts, or a placebo over 18 months to assess their tolerance to peanuts.
82 per cent of children who received the probiotic-peanut therapy could tolerate up to 16 peanuts after the treatment had finished compared with four per cent of children who received placebo.
A further multi-centre study is underway, across three Australian sites, to see if the therapy can produce a longer term tolerance of up to 12 weeks.
Professor Mimi Tang, lead researcher on this project at MCRI said, “Based on the results we have seen to date, if nine children were given probiotic and peanut therapy, seven would benefit. This is a very promising result, and we look forward to seeing further evidence from the current trial and progressing the development of this approach so that all children with peanut allergy can access this treatment.”