Innovation That Matters

| Photo source © 89Stocker via

Could this tech treat 'undruggable' cancer proteins?

Health & Wellbeing

By targeting disease-causing proteins, the system could revolutionise cancer treatment

Spotted: According to the World Health Organization, around 1 in 5 people will develop cancer in their lifetime, and approximately 1 in 9 men and 1 in 12 women will die from the disease. While scientists have identified many of the drivers of cancer, about 80 per cent of all disease-causing proteins are still considered “undruggable”. Now, Australian startup Ternarx is working to change this.

Ternarx was spun out of the Walter and Eliza Hall Institute of Medical Research (WEHI) at the University of Melbourne. The company is developing technology for creating targeted protein degrader medicines and technology, a powerful new tool for destroying disease-causing proteins that cannot be targeted by conventional drugs.

The company is working in targeted protein degradation (TPD), an emerging field of drug development that involves redirecting protein recycling systems in cells to destroy disease-causing proteins. Unlike conventional drugs, which work by inhibiting the activity of proteins, TPDs can target and destroy disease-causing proteins, completely removing the proteins from the cancer. 

The original focus of Ternarx’s work will be neuroblastoma, which claims more lives of children under five than any other cancer, and prostate cancer – the most commonly diagnosed cancer among Australian men. The tech also could be applied to a range of disease-causing proteins, including those associated with currently untreatable inflammatory diseases like ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s disease, and neurological conditions such as Alzheimer’s disease, Huntington’s disease, and Parkinson’s disease.

Ternarx is backed by AU$15 million (around €9.3 million) in funding from the Australian Medical Research Future Fund’s Frontier’s (MRFF) Health and Medical Research initiative. The funding helped establish the Australian Centre for Targeted Therapeutics – a collaboration between experts from WEHI, the Children’s Cancer Institute, and Monash University.

Written By: Lisa Magloff



Download PDF