ACRF grant to transform Queensland into global immunotherapy hub

QIMR Berghofer grant

(From left to right) Mr Anthony Howard QC, The Honourable Linda Dessau AC, Governor of Victoria and Professor Frank Gannon.

Brisbane will continue to produce new and world-leading cancer immunotherapy treatments, thanks to a $1.75 million grant from the Australian Cancer Research Foundation (ACRF).

The funding was announced at a ceremony in Melbourne this evening. It will allow QIMR Berghofer Medical Research Institute to establish the ACRF Centre for Advanced Cellular Immunotherapy and to expand its capacity to develop, trial and produce immunotherapies to treat cancers, including those treated with bone marrow transplants.

In the last decade, immunotherapy has emerged as the “fourth pillar” of cancer treatment, along with surgery, chemotherapy and radiotherapy. It works by “training” the immune system to recognise and destroy cancer cells. The field has given hope to thousands of cancer patients by successfully treating aggressive cancers like melanoma that do not respond to chemotherapy.

The ACRF funding will be used to expand QIMR Berghofer’s existing cell manufacturing facility, Q-Gen Cell Therapeutics, and to buy new equipment needed to produce cellular immunotherapies. In recognition, a new facility named the “ACRF Centre for Advanced Cellular Immunotherapy” will be established within QIMR Berghofer.

QIMR Berghofer’s Director and CEO, Professor Frank Gannon, has thanked the ACRF for its invaluable support.

“QIMR Berghofer is already at the global forefront of research into cancer immunotherapy. We are currently trialling some of the most exciting new treatments in Australia. But because of that success, demands on our facilities are growing,” Professor Gannon said.

“This extremely generous contribution will allow us to scale up production of clinical-grade immunotherapies for patients treated within clinical trials.

“But the ACRF’s support won’t only benefit QIMR Berghofer. Research organisations from across Australia and the world will be able to have clinical-grade treatments produced at our regulatory-approved facility, meaning this funding will help to advance the field of immunotherapy globally.”

ACRF Chief Executive, Professor Ian Brown, said the Australian Cancer Research Foundation was pleased to invest in the development of novel immunotherapies that would benefit all cancer patients.

“The new ACRF Centre for Advanced Cellular Immunotherapy at QIMR Berghofer will provide leadership in the development and manufacture of clinical agents for use in immunotherapy clinical trials,” Professor Brown said.

“We are excited to participate in a project that holds a promise to significantly advance the development of cancer treatment as well as improving treatment outcomes for all types of cancer.

“Thanks to the generosity of our many supporters from around Australia we are able to award high-impact grants, allowing Australia’s best scientists to embark on ground-breaking research projects. These cancer research initiatives will help to speed up discoveries that will ultimately work to save lives by saving time.”

The grant is one of four awarded by the ACRF’s Medical Research Advisory Committee Australia-wide. Funding is awarded to projects that have the potential to make a significant impact on the prevention, detection and treatment of cancer.