$2.5m to develop better skin treatments

20 Nov 2018

Two projects to develop effective topical medicines have won almost $2.5 million ($US1.75) in US Food and Drug Administration grants.

Researchers at The University of Queensland and the University of South Australia will investigate properties of medicines that determine their efficacy in treating a range of ailments.

The study will help the FDA to develop guidelines for comparing new topical dermatological products against reference products.

The results will contribute to a second project at UQ’s Diamantina Institute in partnership with drug development consultancy firm Certara to develop a modelling system to predict the efficacy of new topical medicines.

Project leader Professor Michael Roberts said topical medicines could treat a wide variety of diseases. 

“Topical medicines in the form of a gel, ointment or cream are designed to deliver therapeutic molecules into the skin,” he said.

“We’re designing products to treat skin diseases such as common ailments like dermatitis and psoriasis, right through to skin cancer treatment with drugs that target tumours in the skin,” he said.

“We know that the properties of drugs, product formulation and the skin all have an impact on how effective a treatment is.

“In particular, the way products are formulated very much determines their performance in terms of how well they deliver therapeutic molecules into the skin and deeper tissues.

“From a previous FDA project we already have a good idea of the formulation properties – such as viscosity and drying rate – that have the most impact on drug performance.

“In this project we will use this information to tailor-make new products with optimal performance.”

Professor Roberts said the second project aimed to reduce the need for clinical trials.

“We’re trying to develop a model that will use the properties of the drug, the skin and the formulation to predict product performance and allow us to compare this to existing products.

“Regulations currently require new treatments to undergo extensive clinical trials before testing them on people.

“These trials take a long time and are expensive and difficult,” he said.

“We hope to achieve the same results by using our prediction model to compare and design better products without the need for trials.

“It’s a bit like designing a plane – you want to build systems into it that will guarantee that it will fly, instead of having to rely on the first test flight.”

Both projects will be managed at the Diamantina Institute by Dr Yousuf Mohammed and Dr Jeff Grice.

Professor Roberts is an Australian National Health and Medical Research Council Senior Research Council Senior Principal Research Fellow who holds joint appointments at UQDI and the University of South Australia.

Media: Dr Jeff Grice, jeff.grice@uq.edu.au, +61 7 3443 8032; Faculty of Medicine Communications, med.media@uq.edu.au, +61 7 3365 5118.