South Australian drug company Calpain Therapeutics is $100,000 richer after winning Enterprize, a University of Queensland competition held every year for start-ups.
Calpain Therapeutics, co-founded by Dr Tim Lovell and Professor Andrew Abell, aims to bring to the market a world-first drug to delay the onset of cataracts.
The company beat four other finalists to claim the $100,000 prize. According to Lovell, this will enable the team to complete key human lens experiments – the next step before clinical trials.
Calpain Therapeutics’ drug targets a protein in the eye’s tissue. When activated by various triggers, this protein causes the cataract clouding of the eye’s lens.
Although most cataracts develop as people get older, they can also be caused by diabetes, eye injury, exposure to ultraviolet light from sunlight, long-term use of steroid medication, smoking and heavy drinking.
Currently, the only treatment for severe cataracts is to have the cloudy lens surgically removed and replaced with a synthetic lens.
Lovell says his company’s drug could be either drops or a cream “that you put in your eyes each night before you go to sleep”.
“Through a routine eye examination, optometrists and ophthalmologists can see the early stages of a cataract forming. Once it’s detected, then you could start to use the drug.”
“And because we know that if you have a cataract in one eye you will most likely get one in the other eye, you could start to apply the drug to both eyes, delaying the onset of a cataract in one while slowing the growth of the cataract that has been diagnosed.”
“We see it as akin to brushing your teeth each day. You do that to prevent cavities. This would be a drop each day to prevent cataracts.”
Meanwhile, web-based student start-up Snap Comp has won RMIT University’s 2011 Business Plan Competition, pocketing $25,000 in the process.
Snap Comp aims to deliver a low-cost solution for businesses and organisations that struggle with the legal and technical challenges of running competitions, raffles and redemptions.
Led by RMIT commerce student Paul Monks, Snap Comp also won the Servcorp Virtual Office Prize for Business Excellence and the GrantReady Award for Excellence, both valued at $5,000.
Snap Comp is expected to launch in Australia in January 2012, with a rapid global expansion planned to meet the demand for the service worldwide.
“This is fantastic validation and affirmation for us. It gives us much greater credibility in establishing the business,” Monks said at the event.
“The business plan competition has been an excellent, practical, business-focused extension to my academic studies at RMIT.”
“Winning the competition and the $25,000 first prize… enables us to enter the market much sooner than would be possible otherwise.”