Picato® gel

Picato® is a prescription gel that treats skin actinic keratosis (potentially pre-cancerous sunspots). The journey to develop this product began in the 1970s when Queensland researcher, Dr Jim Aylward, became interested in a local farming story about the healing properties of the sap of the radium weed Euphorbia peplus when applied to sunspots on the skin. In the 1990s, Dr Aylward accelerated his research on the sap, and by 1997 he had teamed up with Professors Peter Parsons and Andreas Suhrbier at QIMR Berghofer, and the journey from basic science to pharmaceutical product began. NHMRC provided research fellowships and other grants to support the pre-clinical research in the Parsons and Suhrbier labs. Both credit NHMRC’s support as a significant contributor, along with other public and private funding sources, to the successful commercial development of Picato® gel. In Australia, Picato® is available as a private script and is also listed on the Repatriation Pharmaceutical Benefit Scheme. Global sales in 2017 were around US$76m.

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Aridol® and Bronchitol®

Aridol® (also known as Osmoale®) uses a dry mannitol powder aerosol as a test to identify asthma and assess its severity; Bronchitol® also uses dry mannitol powder to assist people with cystic fibrosis to clear their airways of mucus. Mannitol is a naturally occurring sugar alcohol from the sap of the manna ash tree that can be produced as a dry powder. In the 1990s, Professor Sandra Anderson and colleagues at Sydney’s Royal Prince Alfred Hospital began research into how inhaled mannitol can be used to diagnose asthma. An initial NHMRC grant to Professor Anderson led to over 20 years of funding from NHMRC and other sources. The journey from research to clinical trials and ultimately to a commercial product has taken 25 years. Professor Anderson, through Central Sydney Area Health Service, patented her work in 1995 and the Australian pharmaceutical company Pharmaxis licenced the patent in 2001. Through this partnership, and with the support of a range of public and private investors, they have commercialised and manufactured the two products in Australia. Aridol® received TGA approval in 2006 and Bronchitol® in 2011.

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