US company invests in biotech startup from James Cook University

03 Sep 2018

Paragen Bio, a biotech startup focused on treating autoimmune diseases, has attracted a A$6 million investment from US-based AbbVie Ventures, Brandon Capital’s Medical Research Commercialisation Fund (MRCF) and OneVentures.

The biotech startup, which is a spin off from James Cook University’s Australian Institute of Tropical Health and Medicine, is developing treatments targeting autoimmune diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis, inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) and asthma, using beneficial proteins found in parasitic hookworms.

‘Autoimmune diseases are reaching epidemic proportions in developed countries and there is an urgent need for new therapeutic approaches,’ says Professor Alex Loukas, Paragen Head of Research, in a company media release.

The A$6 million investment will go towards developing the next generation of inflammation-reducing medicines sourced from hookworms.

‘The syndicate of investors is a testament to the high-calibre research coming from Australia and James Cook University, in particular,’ adds Margarita Chavez, Paragen Director and AbbVie Ventures Managing Director.

This is the first biotech startup from James Cook University (JCU) and is one of just a handful of biotech companies in Northern Queensland.

Paragen’s technology was developed at JCU with support from the Australian Research Council, Queensland Government, and National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC).

Founded in 2009 in the US, AbbVie Ventures, the venture arm of AbbVie Inc, focuses on investing in early-stage biotechs and pharmaceuticals across immunology, oncology, and neuroscience.

Brandon Capital’s MRCF, established in 2007, provides dedicated funding to help commercialise early-stage medical research discoveries originating from its member institutes in Australia and New Zealand.

OneVentures Health Fund III has been supported by The Australian Government’s Biomedical Translation Fund (BTF), which was established to invest in biomedical innovations and fast track them to market. Paragen will receive $367,000 through the BTF.

The Australian Institute of Tropical Health and Medicine was founded in 2008 with a A$42.12 million injection from the Queensland Government, with funding matched by the Australian Government.