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Who we are

Aculeus Therapeutics is a Biotech company based in Melbourne Australia, developing small molecule drugs that modulate the immune system for the treatment of cancer and other serious diseases. Aculeus is doing this by developing drugs that target the Stimulator of Interferon Genes (STING) biochemical pathway.

Aculeus in-licensed its lead programs, STING and ENPP1, in 2020 from the CRC for Cancer Therapeutics, a Public Private Partnership between a number of Australia’s leading Medical Research Institutes, Universities and Industry partners with a track record of scientific and commercial success.

Focusing on the science

Growing value in a technology-based company means keeping the focus on good science and IP protection. Aculeus is a semi-virtual operation overseen by an experienced Board of Directors and led by a small team of experienced drug discovery scientists. Aculeus works with former participants of the CRC for Cancer Therapeutics in addition to Australian and international contract research organisations to rapidly progress its therapeutic programs.

Aculeus bolsters its internal drug discovery capability through direct engagement with a team of scientific and clinical consultants with expertise in specific areas of the drug development pipeline.

STING Activator project

Our optimised STING agonists (activators) are underpinned by a strong IP position and lead molecules show favourable drug-like properties and excellent anti-tumour effects in mouse models of cancer. These drugs are being developed for intravenous delivery to stimulate an immune response against tumour cells and enhance the activity of existing immunotherapy drugs. The company is focused on selecting a development candidate for progression into preclinical toxicology studies before the end of 2021.

STING Activator project

ENPP1 inhibitor project

ENPP1 is an earlier stage project supported by several highly developable chemical series and compounds with excellent biochemical and cellular activity and desirable in vivo pharmacokinetic profiles. ENPP1 inhibitors are most likely to be effective in cancer treatment when used in combination with other treatments such as chemo- or radiation therapy. In addition to developing optimised ENPP1 inhibitors, Aculeus is also committed to determining what other therapies work best in combination with them.

ENPP1 inhibitor project

Pipeline

Program Candidate Indication Target
validation
Hit to lead Lead
optimisation
IND enabling Phase I
STING Agonist Undisclosed Solid tumors
Undisclosed Vaccine adjuvant
Undisclosed Respiratory infections
ENPP1 inhibitor Undisclosed Solid tumors
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Company

Grant Pestell
Non-Executive Chairman

Grant Pestell LL.B

Grant has 25 years’ experience in commercial and corporate law and in commercial litigation. Grant practices in corporate and commercial law and predominantly dispute resolution and advisory work and has extensive experience advising high net worth clients and both listed and private companies in the Information technology, Automation and Robotics, Biotechnology, Resources, Energy and Construction industries. He has been the Managing Director of MPH since 2000 and is regularly involved in and advises on complex commercial disputes, strategic contract negotiations, risk management and large-scale financing and restructuring. He advises on large scale ICT contracts, construction contracts, mining and gas agreements and commercial disputes in that regard and has had extensive dealings with various state governments and probity regimes in respect to tender/contract negotiations and with multinational companies across the above sectors. He also regularly advises public companies and directors on matters of corporate governance, mergers and acquisitions and risk management. In recent years he has worked extensively in the innovation space (digital, AI, robotics/automation and biotech) advising investors and founders on investment, national and international partnerships, commercialisation and scaling and IP strategy/protection.

In 2014, Grant was selected as one of the Global 250 Leading Lawyers in Australia by Lawyer Monthly Magazine.

Grant is currently non-executive Chairman of RooLife Ltd, an artificial intelligence / e-commerce company, non-executive director of Cosol Ltd an information and technology services provider and previously a non-executive director of information and technology services provider ASG Group Limited. He is also non-executive Chairman of Fleetsu Pty Ltd, an automotive data analytics platform for connected vehicles, and non-executive Chairman of Vudoo Holdings Pty Ltd, an interactive video technology platform.

Warwick Tong
Non-Executive Director

MB ChB MPP GAICD

Warwick is a NZ trained physician with more than 25 years’ experience in the Pharmaceutical and Biotechnology industry. After his early career in General Medical Practice Warwick has held a wide variety of roles in the pharmaceutical and biotech industry in NZ (Glaxo), Singapore (GlaxoWellcome), London (GSK), Boston (Surface Logix) and Melbourne (Cancer Therapeutics CRC). His roles have included; Medical Director, Regional Business Development Director (Asia Pacific), Commercial Strategy Director (International) and SVP Development (USA). He was CEO and Director of the CRC from 2011 until April 2018. He is a member of the SAB of the Maurice Wilkins Centre in Auckland NZ, the Advisory Board of Cortex Health, Melbourne, the Industry Advisory Board, School of Biomedical Sciences, University of Melbourne and a member of the CSIRO Manufacturing, Business Advisory Committee. Warwick was educated at the University of Auckland and Victoria University, Wellington, New Zealand and is a Graduate of the Australian Institute of Company Directors.

Professor Andrew F Wilks
Non-Executive Director

FTSE FAHMS

Professor Andrew Wilks is a serial entrepreneur with twenty five years commercial experience, following a successful academic career at the Ludwig Institute for Cancer Research. At the Ludwig, Andrew discovered and named many novel protein kinases, including the JAK family of kinases, and went on to found Cytopia in 1997. Cytopia was one of Australia’s earliest listed drug discovery companies. Since then, Andrew has founded or co-founded eleven companies that undertake self-funded drug discovery or provide drug discovery services to the Australian drug discovery sector. In particular, he was the co-founder of SYNthesis med chem, a global contract chemistry group with laboratories in China and more than 250 scientists world-wide, and The Pharm BIO, a “venture-discovery” company that funds and manages drug discovery collaborations generated from academia. Andrew holds an Adjunct/Honorary Professorship in the Department of Medicine, Nursing and Health Sciences at Monash University, and is an Honorary Enterprise Professor at University of Melbourne. Andrew was awarded the Australian BioBusiness Award (2007),  the Johnson and Johnson Ausbiotech Industry Leadership Award (2016), the ATSE Clunies Ross Medal (Entrepreneur of the Year: 2017) and The LackMann Award of the CSTI (2021). He was elected to the Australian Academy of Technological Sciences and Engineering (ATSE) in 2007 and the Australian Academy of Health and Medical Sciences (AAHMS). 

Mark Devlin
Chief Executive Officer

B. Sc. (Hons) PhD GradD Drug Dev MBA

After obtaining a PhD in Pharmacology from the University of Melbourne, Mark has worked in a variety of roles focused on drug discovery and development in a number of therapeutic areas including, pain, inflammation, autoimmune disease and oncology. Mark worked at the Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre between 2008 and 2018 in a number of roles for the CRC for Cancer Therapeutics (CRC), first as Head of the CRC’s Translational Cancer Biology Laboratory and later as Director of Translational Cancer Biology for the CRC. In his role as a lead scientist, Mark and his team were involved in the PRMT5 program that was licensed by the CRC to MSD (Merck) and the Chromatin-Modifying Enzyme programs licensed to Pfizer. Mark was also the Biology Lead on the CRC Programs that delivered AMP945 and AMP886 that are now being developed by Amplia Therapeutics (ASX:ATX). Mark currently holds the position of CSO at Amplia Therapeutics. He also initiated and led the STING program in the CRC that is now the lead program at Aculeus Therapeutics. Mark led the creation of Aculeus Therapeutics and was responsible for in-licensing both the STING and ENPP1 programs. In addition to his scientific experience, Mark has held a number of business-facing roles as COO of the CRC and later as CEO and Managing Director of the commercial partner in the CRC, CTxONE Pty Ltd. Mark is an honorary Associate Professor in the Department of Pharmacology at the University of Melbourne and has a Graduate Diploma in Drug Development from the University of New South Wales and an MBA from the Melbourne Business School. Mark is the CEO of Aculeus Therapeutics.

Dr Ben Morrow
Head of Chemistry

BASc (Hons) PhD

Ben received his undergraduate degrees and his PhD in Chemistry from Queensland University of Technology (QUT). He then spent almost 10 years at CTx CRC Limited (Cancer Therapeutics CRC) as a medicinal chemist, changing roles with increasing responsibility over that time. He finished up at CTx CRC as a Research manager overseeing and leading the STING and ENPP1 programs that form the existing platform of Aculeus Therapeutics. Ben’s deep knowledge in both of these programs strongly benefits Aculeus, where he has taken up the position of Head of Chemistry.

Simon Preston
Operations Manager

BBiomedSc (Hons) PhD

Simon has over 10 years of academic research experience in the areas of infectious disease, immunology, cell death and oncology. He received a Bachelor of Biomedical Science from Monash University and a PhD from the University of Melbourne. His PhD was conducted at WEHI, where he also led several academic-industry collaborations in positions including lead scientist and program manager. Simon also holds the position of Venture Manager at SYNthesis Research, where he manages the operations of other small molecule drug discovery companies.

Lorna Mitchell
Medicinal chemistry

Medicinal chemistry

Is Director of Small Molecule Therapeutics at BioCurate, Australia where she is currently leading both oncology and CNS focused projects.
Lorna is a medicinal chemist with significant Pharma/Biotech drug discovery experience; she is a named inventor on 38 patents and has been directly involved in the delivery of 10 drug candidates to the clinic.
Lorna started her industry career, and training as a medicinal chemist, with Pfizer, USA. She led multiple projects at Pfizer over nearly 10 years at sites in both the USA and the UK before moving into biotech.
In the biotech arena Lorna worked in oncology-focused companies in the Boston area for 7 years, with most of that time at the pioneering epigenetic research company Epizyme. Lorna relocated to Australia in 2017 as VP of medicinal chemistry at Bionomics managing a portfolio of CNS projects prior to her current appointment with BioCurate.

Nicole Haynes
Immuno-oncology biology

Immuno-oncology biology

Dr Nicole Haynes is an applied cancer immunologist with close to 20 years of experience in the immuno-oncology field. She has trained in the laboratories of Professors’ Phil Darcy (Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre (Peter Mac)), Jason Cyster (University of California San Francisco, USA), Mark Smyth (Peter Mac) and Ricky Johnstone (Peter Mac). Currently she holds a Senior Research Fellow position within the Research Division of the Peter Mac, where she is the lead laboratory scientist in the radiation immuno-oncology space. In addition to Nicole’s research activities, she has also worked in drug discovery. She was Science Lead of Immuno-oncology for the Cancer Therapeutics Collaborative Research Centre (CTx CRC); a small molecule drug discovery group focused on the development of novel anti-cancer drugs. She was also the biology lead for Cancer Therapeutics STING agonist program.

Arun Azad
Clinical oncology

Clinical oncology

Is senior medical oncologist at Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre and Associate Professor at University of Melbourne. He is internationally recognised as an expert in prostate cancer and urological malignancies, leading multiple investigator-led clinical trials and high-impact translational research centred around circulating biomarkers. He also serves as Chair, ANZUP Cancer Trials Group Translational Research Subcommittee and Chair, COSA Urologic Oncology Group.  

Sue Charman
ADME and DMPK

ADME and DMPK

Susan Charman is Professor and Director of the Centre for Drug Candidate Optimisation based at the Monash Institute of Pharmaceutical Sciences. With a PhD in pharmaceutical science and more than 20 years’ experience, she leads a team of 20 research scientists and postdoctoral fellows that undertake physicochemical, preformulation, metabolism and pharmacokinetic investigations to inform drug candidate design and progression. She works with commercial and academic drug discovery programs across a range of disease indications including infectious diseases, cancer, neurological disorders and cardio-metabolic diseases. 

Our Partners

Working with Aculeus

At Aculeus, we believe the best translational science is done by combining ‘industry grade’ drug discovery and development with deep knowledge of biology and disease.
One or the other in isolation is not enough.

Aculeus welcomes the opportunity to work with other companies and research organisations with a commitment to scientific excellence and developing new medicines that provide meaningful benefit to patients.

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