Certa Therapeutics is focused on the emerging field of medical science which uses genetic information to identify which patients will best respond to a specific treatment, commonly referred to as precision medicine. Certa is initially targeting kidney disease, where fibrosis (scarring) of the kidney leads to kidney failure and ultimately dialysis or kidney transplantation. Certa’s novel drugs block a receptor that is a key driver of this fibrosis. Certa is able to use genetic analysis to identify those patients that are most likely to benefit from the therapy, addressing a market worth around US$5 billion per annum.
There are currently no treatments available for kidney fibrosis and given the enormous cost of dialysis and kidney transplants to the healthcare system, finding an effective treatment for these patients remains one of the global healthcare industry’s largest unmet needs. Kidney disease is a major killer and a significant cost to the Australian economy. Treating people with chronic kidney disease costs the Australian government approximately $1 billion per year*, with 53 Australian’s dyeing each day from kidney-related diseases**.
The CEO and founder of Certa Therapeutics is Professor Darren Kelly, one of Australia’s leading life-science entrepreneurs. With the drug advancing to mid-stage clinical trials, Kelly says the company’s fibrosis treatment could be on the market within five years. “It’s an incredibly exciting time to be working in medical science. The amount of stored genetic material at our fingertips is immense. Access to this genetic data is transforming how we treat diseases. Rather than creating drugs that work for majority of the population, we can now tailor our treatment based on an understanding of genetic make-up. The implications of this for fighting disease are profound.”
In creating the new company, MRCF and Uniseed acquired clinical development candidates from Shire plc, the leading global biotech company focused on rare diseases. In exchange, Shire received an 18 percent equity stake in Certa and is eligible to receive royalties on future global product sales.
The $500 million Biomedical Translation Fund was created by the Australian Government in 2016 as a once-in-a-generation initiative to make Australia a global leader in the commercialisation of biomedical discoveries. Brandon Capital has been appointed to manage the largest pool of funds, worth $230 million.
“The scale of this investment has been made possible by the Biotechnology Translation Fund,” says Dr Chris Nave, CEO of the MRCF and Managing Director of Brandon Capital. “In many ways this investment represents the raison detre of the BTF, taking great Australian medical science and providing it with access to sufficient capital to enable its continued, late stage, clinical development in Australia. The BTF was designed to be transformative for our local industry, providing the ability for research discoveries to be developed from concept to commercialisation right here in Australia, creating jobs and growing a sustainable industry along the way.”
“Certa’s technology is at the forefront of efforts to treat kidney disease and provides another great example of the world leading biotechnology research being conducted in Australia,” says Dr John Kurek, Investment Manager at Uniseed.
“Our excellence in medical research discovery is unquestionably first-rate but without access to the deep pools of capital found in the US and Europe, we’ve traditionally not benefited as much as we could, or should, as a country from our excellence in this sector,” says Bill Ferris, Chair of the Innovation and Science Australia Board, and Co-Chairman of private equity firm CHAMP. “The BTF goes some way to resolving the issue of access to capital and the government should be applauded for this.”
The Australian technology being developed by Certa originated from St Vincent’s Institute for Medical Research, Melbourne University and Bio21.