New lymphoma drug

Our 20-year research collaboration with New York’s Albert Einstein College of Medicine has led to the creation of a new therapy for hard-to-treat lymphomas.

Victoria University of Wellington’s Ferrier Research Institute has been working with the American college to develop new enzyme inhibitors to treat diseases such as cancer, malaria, and microbial infections.

The new drug, called forodesine, has been approved for use in Japan under the trade name Mundesine® to treat an aggressive type of non-Hodgkin lymphoma—a form of blood cancer.

Mundesine® is only the second pharmaceutical drug created in a New Zealand laboratory to make it to the international market, and the first since the 1980s.

The Ferrier team invented the drug in partnership with Einstein’s Professor Vern Schramm, who first conceived the idea. Ferrier’s Professors Peter Tyler and Richard Furneaux worked to design, synthesise, and patent the drug.

As a targeted therapy, it doesn’t have the serious side effects normally associated with the usual cancer chemotherapeutics, says Professor Furneaux.

A child’s last hope

Hear how forodesine, the drug created through our partnership with the Albert Einstein College of Medicine, has helped an American girl.

Future drugs

The discovery of the lymphoma drug is just part of a significant research programme between Ferrier and the Albert Einstein College of Medicine. They are working to design and synthesise enzyme inhibitors that could be used to treat a variety of diseases. Several inhibitors have been licensed to drug companies and have progressed through clinical trials.

In 2018 the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment awarded a $7.4 million grant over five years to Ferrier to continue their drug development work with Albert Einstein College of Medicine.