The Magazine for AUT Alumni 2018

AUT professor secures spot in Johnson & Johnson Innovation’s JLABS facility

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Research
AUT professor secures spot in Johnson & Johnson Innovation’s JLABS facility

An AUT-developed biomedical technology that could potentially cure cancer has made a breakthrough in the US. Kode Biotech, founded by AUT’s Professor Steve Henry, has become the first company in Australasia to secure a spot in the world-leading Johnson & Johnson Innovation ‘JLABS’ facility in Houston, Texas.

Kode Biotech enables researchers to modify cells, viruses, microbes and nonbiological surfaces with virtually any biological or non-biological material. Put simply, it can make living things act differently.

The most high-profile use of the technology is in a cancer therapy AGI- 134 – a molecule developed by Kode - which changes the appearance of cancer cells, making them take on the appearance of an animal cell, which the immune system already knows how to reject. This kills the cancer that was injected but more importantly teaches the body how to find and kill any other tumours. AGI-134 has successfully completed pre-clinical studies and is targeted to start Phase I/II trials early in 2018.

Professor Henry believes that a major cancer breakthrough is close.

"For us to be selected by JLABS gives enormous credibility to the potential of our technology. And it shows that New Zealand companies can leverage themselves to the world - we are proof you can do it with a foot still in New Zealand."

"There's a lot that's been learned very recently, and it’s not just us. The walls are starting to come down."

He says securing a spot at JLABS will allow for further uses of Kode Technology to accelerate.

"One of the great things about Kode is that we are a technology that can be used by a variety of different industries. We don’t make the products, but we license the technology to others to create things that will change people’s lives."

To secure a spot at JLABS, Kode Biotech had to prove it had a compelling and credible technology, addressed an area of significant unmet medical or market need, and has a strong team and financial record.

Kode Biotech's operations at JLABS are located at the Texas Medical Center, a 34,000 square-foot life science innovation centre. The labs provide a flexible environment for start-up companies pursuing new technologies and research platforms to advance medical care.

For us to be selected by JLABS, gives enormous credibility to the potential of our technology. It shows that New Zealand companies can leverage themselves to the world. Most people think you have to leave New Zealand to be successful. We are proof you can do it with a foot still in New Zealand,” says Professor Henry.

Much of Kode Biotech’s core biological research is undertaken by AUT students and postdoctoral researchers at the AUT city campus. In time it is anticipated that AUT students will also be able to work from JLABS on US collaborative research projects.

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