Converting research
into new therapies

UQ has established a new venture to accelerate its biomedical research with the goal of developing life-changing therapies.

UniQuest Executive Director of Intellectual Property Commercialisation Dr Mark Ashton and Queensland Emory Drug Discovery Initiative Senior Director Dr Andrew Harvey.

The Queensland Emory Drug Discovery Initiative (QEDDI) is home to a dedicated group of experienced drug-discovery scientists recruited from industry to translate research into real patient benefits.

Based at the Queensland Bioscience Precinct within the Institute for Molecular Bioscience (IMB), QEDDI offers UQ researchers the opportunity to access best-practice techniques in drug discovery and development leveraging the cutting-edge research infrastructure available at the institute.

With funding support from the Queensland Government and UQ, QEDDI is operated and managed by UQ’s main commercialisation company UniQuest to bridge the gap – the so-called ‘valley of death’ – in translating innovative discoveries into new drugs.

UniQuest Executive Director of Intellectual Property Commercialisation Dr Mark Ashton says finding funding opportunities for translating biology into promising lead molecules for subsequent preclinical and clinical development is traditionally challenging.

“It’s for this reason that a large amount of innovative and important research in academic institutions remains undeveloped in the lab of the university researcher, instead of progressing to the clinic to provide potential patient benefits,”
Dr Ashton explains.

“Only a few are fortunate enough to license the early-stage intellectual property to a pharmaceutical company or a biotech company, which has the resources to develop the project to a point where a large pharmaceutical company could apply extensive clinical resources to bring a product to market.”

UniQuest Chief Executive Officer Dr Dean Moss says QEDDI offers UQ researchers the ability to collaborate with an experienced team that operates like a biotech company while leveraging all the resources of a global top 50 university.

“QEDDI will enable UQ to develop the intellectual property further before partnering, which will result in commercial deals with greater value for the University, because the critical, early process of eliminating risks will have been carried out in-house."

Dr Dean Moss

“The QEDDI model also offers unique opportunities to progress research towards the clinic and, ultimately, towards direct benefits for the patients.”

QEDDI was conceived and modelled based on leading centres worldwide, including the Emory Institute for Drug Development (EIDD) at Emory University in Atlanta in the US, the MRC-T Centre for Therapeutic Discovery in London, and the Lead Discovery Centre originally set up by the Max Planck Institute in Germany.

The EIDD is led by Professor Dennis Liotta, an inventor associated with 10 Food and Drug Administration (FDA)-approved antiviral drugs. Professor Liotta and Emory University have provided their advice and expertise in the translation of academic research during QEDDI’s implementation and continue to be strategic partners.

QEDDI was established in 2015 as a business unit of UniQuest, which has a strong track record in commercialising UQ’s biomedical research to provide significant healthcare outcomes.

This includes the commercialisation of Gardasil®, the Human Papillomavirus vaccine for cervical cancer that was co-created by UQ researcher Professor Ian Fraser AC and the late Dr Jian Zhou, licensed to CSL Limited and ultimately Merck & Co., before achieving FDA approval in 2006.

Another example of UniQuest’s commercialisation success includes a multimillion-dollar deal for a chronic pain treatment arising from the work of UQ researcher Professor Maree Smith. The research was further developed within Spinifex Pharmaceuticals, a start-up biotech company founded by UniQuest. In June 2015, Spinifex was acquired by Novartis for an upfront cash payment of $US200 million. plus additional milestone payments.

UniQuest will be working with its UQ collaborators through QEDDI to develop and license drug candidates to pharmaceutical partners who can take these therapies to market for the benefit of patients. UniQuest hopes to identify many other UQ success stories like Spinifex.

Find out more

For more information about the Queensland Emory Drug Discovery Initiative and UniQuest, visit