TTRA News: Awardee Spin-off Developing Oral Insulin Technology Gets Commercial Backing

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17 April 2023

Pictured L-R: Endo Axiom founders Dr David Le Couteur AO, Dr Victoria Cogger and Dr Nicholas Hunt.

Spin-off company Endo Axiom founded by three University of Sydney and Sydney Local Health District researchers – has received $2.8 million in backing from Australian biotech incubator Proto Axiom to help bring their drug delivery technology to the clinic.

The technology leverages the safe delivery of nanoparticles to treat autoimmune diseases and allergies. The first application – currently supported by MTPConnect’s Targeted Translation Research Accelerator (TTRA) funding, an initiative of the Medical Research Future Fund (MRFF) – focuses on oral insulin to improve the lives of people with Type 1 Diabetes, a lifelong autoimmune disease which usually starts in young children and requires multiple daily injections of insulin. In 2021, it was estimated that 8.4 million people worldwide live with the condition.

Professor Victoria Cogger, Professor David Le Couteur AO and Dr Nicholas Hunt founded spin-off company Endo Axiom after 20 years of research.

Endo Axiom CEO, Dr Hunt highlights a 2018 NHMRC Project Grant that allowed for a key development: the creation of a polymer that was responsive to its environment, allowing for the release of insulin at the right time and in the right place in the liver.

Director of the ANZAC Research Institute, Professor Cogger says Endo Axiom’s oral insulin is made by attaching insulin to a nanoparticle and then coating that formulation in a protective layer that helps the insulin be delivered safely into the bloodstream.

"We hope insulin is just the first of the usually injectable, life-saving medications we can deliver this way. Our work to date shows the nanoparticles we use are safe and excreted very quickly from the body. We are already testing other medications and our major goal is using the delivery system to not just treat, but to prevent disease development,” said Professor Cogger.

Pre-clinical results of the oral insulin program are currently undergoing peer review (see preview), and the program is in accredited manufacturing with CSIRO, prior to entering clinical trials in 2024.

Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Research) University of Sydney, Professor Emma Johnston, said this work exemplifies the university’s longstanding excellence in health and medical research and commitment to leveraging research to improve lives.

"I’m thrilled to see this research progressing to commercialisation. The potential to vastly improve the daily lives of those with Type 1 Diabetes, particularly children, is an exciting development, and underscores the importance of what we as universities, and individual scientists, do for the communities we serve,” said Professor Johnston.

Proto Axiom CEO Anthony Liveris, who joins Endo Axiom’s board, added, “We are thrilled to have the opportunity to work with Endo Axiom. The team has produced world leading research. As well as financially investing in the company, Proto will provide the team access to industry knowledge and commercialisation expertise from both Australia and overseas.”

About TTRA

MTPConnect is delivering the Medical Research Future Fund’s $47 million Targeted Translation Research Accelerator (TTRA) initiative for diabetes and cardiovascular disease. The TTRA program provides a new integrated research program to improve the prevention, management and treatment of diabetes and cardiovascular disease (D&CVD) in Australia. Research efforts focus on the most pressing areas of unmet clinical and research needs in D&CVD, which are leading causes of death and disability in Australia.

About Proto Axiom

Proto Axiom is dedicated to enriching Australia's biotech ecosystem by bridging the gap between early-stage academic discovery and de-risked, commercially viable drug development programs. It invests local and overseas capital in Australian biotechnology research and innovations, providing an incubation platform to amplify value from the wealth of world-leading, publicly funded discoveries from Australian academic institutions. This is the first in a series of investments that Proto Axiom expects to announce in coming months.