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Major research funding to protect neonates from brain injury

31/05/23 - A WA led team developing a new neuroprotective therapy and diagnostic to reduce disability in babies suffering brain injury has been awarded significant funding from the Stan Perron Charitable Foundation.

Additional contributions have been provided by grant partners, local biotechnology company, Argenica Therapeutics and The University of Western Australia, bringing the total value of the program to $5.6 million.

The funding will support one of the major research streams at Western Australia’s Perron Institute.

“Neonatal encephalopathy is characterised by abnormal brain function affecting preterm and term infants,” said program leader and Senior Postdoctoral Research Fellow Dr Adam Edwards (Perron Institute, Argenica Therapeutics and Sir Charles Gairdner Hospital).

“Resulting most commonly from lack of oxygen during pregnancy or birth, this ‘umbrella’ syndrome can cause severe and permanent disabilities in infants, such as cerebral palsy and epilepsy.

“It contributes to one of the leading causes of death and disability in children under two, but despite significant improvements in neonatal critical care, there are no drug therapies to protect babies from this type of brain injury,” Dr Edwards said.

The funding will help advance the preclinical development of a neuroprotective drug as a therapeutic, as well as a magnetic resonance imaging diagnostic for preterm and term neonatal encephalopathy.

The neuroprotective drug, ARG-007, which has demonstrated safety after a Phase I clinical trial in healthy humans, has also demonstrated the ability to significantly reduce brain cell death in preclinical models of preterm and term infant brain injury.

Led by Managing Director Dr Liz Dallimore, Argenica Therapeutics has been established as an industry partner to drive the development and future commercialisation of this promising therapeutic.

The program, also focused on improving diagnostic techniques, brings together local and internationally respected scientists and clinicians including Professor Bruno Meloni and Clinical Professor Neville Knuckey (Perron Institute, UWA and Sir Charles Gairdner Hospital), Professor Jane Pillow and Dr Tim Rosenow (UWA) and Associate Professor Kasper Kyng (Aarhus University Hospital, Denmark).

A consumer engagement committee will be established to drive meaningful patient-centred outcomes and will include representatives of USA-based Hope for HIE (Hypoxic Ischemic Encephalopathy) and local volunteer organisation Tiny Sparks (Perth, WA).

Pictured: L-R C/Prof Neville Knuckey, Prof Bruno Meloni, Dr Adam Edwards, Dr Tim Rosenow

and Prof Jane Pillow at the Perron Institute



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