Wellcome Trust Support for Transformative Tropoelastin Biomaterials

 

January 2015, Sydney: “Imagine a car accident victim who has major injuries or a patient who has
just had a piece of skin containing a cancerous lesion removed. The surgeon places our tropoelastin
mesh on the wound and it not only instructs the wound how to repair, it helps accelerate the
healing. It could reduce the need for hospital stays and for skin grafts.”
Professor Tony Weiss, from the University of Sydney’s Charles Perkins Centre and School of
Molecular Bioscience and founding scientist of Elastagen Pty Ltd, is describing the amazing potential
of a biomedical technology which mimics tropoelastin, the self-assembling elastic protein which
allows the body to repair elastic tissues in the skin, artery, bladder and lung.
Development of the synthetic version of the protein that Professor Weiss and his collaborators have
created has received an AUS$1 million Wellcome Trust Translation Fund Award, provided to
Elastagen in collaboration with the University of Sydney.
The funding comes on the back of support provided to Elastagen through the NSW Health Medical
Device Fund. “Funding from the NSW Health MDF was pivotal in our application to the Wellcome
Trust, helping us to build a pipeline of medical products based on our unique and incredibly exciting
tropoelastin biomaterial platform” said Robert Daniels, CEO of Elastagen.
“This program enables us to fast-track the technology to clinical trials within two years. The
Wellcome Trust is known for funding research which is revolutionary not evolutionary – they look for
projects that can leap from the lab to helping people, with immediate and major benefits,” said
Professor Weiss.
“Tropoelastin is a building block of human biology and the more we learn about how it assembles
then the greater the range of applications we can achieve. We are replicating human tissue and its
behaviour – by making it in the laboratory and not by extracting it from a living organism.”
It took Professor Weiss and his collaborators over fifteen years of work to tame this ‘wild animal’ of
the protein world. Using University patented technologies the rights to which have been transferred
to Elastagen, they eventually succeeded in painstakingly producing milligrams of synthesised elastin.
Now Elastagen has successfully transitioned this process to industrial scale, enabling them to
produce kilograms.
“Australian researchers are sometimes discouraged by the ‘tyranny of distance’ being a hurdle to
attracting major overseas funding so the fact we are now being supported by two overseas grants, at
the same time as receiving Australian funding, is heartening,” said Professor Weiss.
Elastagen is now pursuing multiple product opportunities based on this unique protein in indications
ranging from dermatology and scar remodelling, through to tissue repair and surgical implants and
glues.
In parallel, and through separately funded research, Professor Weiss and his colleagues continue to
explore additional applications of the tropoelastin protein, including how to repair and build blood
vessels and other elastic tissues.
Funding for Professor Weiss’s research includes grants from the National Institutes of Health in the
USA, the Australian Research Council, National Health and Medical Research Council and
Cooperative Research Centre.
In addition to funding received from NSW Health and the Wellcome Trust, Elastagen has received
investment from GBS Venture Partners and Brandon Capital Partners and has been supported by
both State and Federal government programs.
Media enquiries:
Elastagen Pty Ltd: Emma McGilly: (02) 9209 4054 or emma@elastagen.com
University of Sydney: Verity Leatherdale: (02) 9351 4312, 0403 067 342 or
verity.leatherdale@sydney.edu.au
Webpage: www.weisslab.net
NSW Health MDF: www.health.nsw.gov.au/ohmr/mdf
Wellcome Trust: Clare Ryan, C.Ryan@wellcome.ac.uk www.wellcome.ac.uk
The Wellcome Trust is a global charitable foundation dedicated to improving health. We support
bright minds in science, the humanities and the social sciences, as well as education, public
engagement and the application of research to medicine.