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14 August 2018

Paragen Bio launches in northern Queensland with $6 million investment

AbbVie Ventures, Brandon Capital’s Medical Research Commercialisation Fund and OneVentures support start-up of Paragen Bio; Northern Queensland biotech company targeting autoimmune diseases


AbbVie Ventures, Brandon Capital’s Medical Research Commercialisation Fund (MRCF) and OneVentures today announce an AU$6 million investment into new biotech company, Paragen Bio Pty Ltd. This is the first biotech startup from James Cook University (JCU) and is one of just a handful of biotech companies in Northern Queensland.

Paragen Bio is focused on treating autoimmune diseases, a range of diseases which causes the immune system to attack healthy tissues and organs, leading to the deterioration and in some cases to the complete destruction of tissue.

Paragen’s technology is based on research with parasitic hookworms which has been conducted at JCU’s Australian Institute of Tropical Health and Medicine (AITHM) by Professor Alex Loukas and team for the past eight years. The technology was developed at JCU with support from the Australian Research Council, Queensland Government, and National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC).

Hookworms are blood-sucking parasites that frequently infect humans in tropical regions with poor sanitation. Because of a modern lifestyle and access to anti-worm therapies, the prevalence of hookworm infections in humans is slowly decreasing. This lack of infection is linked to a rise in the incidence of autoimmune diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis, inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), asthma, and allergic diseases globally.

In clinical trials, Paragen researchers have shown that experimental infection of human subjects with hookworms can protect against the onset of autoimmune diseases. Proteins extracted from hookworm saliva can prevent the development of symptoms associated with a range of inflammatory diseases. The $6M investment into Paragen will go towards advancing the development of novel medicines sourced from hookworms to treat such autoimmune diseases.

Paragen Director and AbbVie Ventures Managing Director, Margarita Chavez says, “The syndicate of investors is a testament to the high-calibre research coming from Australia and James Cook University, in particular.”

“Autoimmune diseases are reaching epidemic proportions in developed countries and there is an urgent need for new therapeutic approaches,” Paragen Head of Research Professor Alex Loukas said.

“At Paragen Bio we’re being guided in our drug discovery efforts by millennia of co-evolution between parasitic hookworms and their mammalian hosts, and in particular the effect hookworms can have on our immune systems.

“We’re excited to be working with AbbVie Ventures, Brandon Capital and OneVentures, whose investment will help us make that critical step from research towards eventually trialling a potential treatment.”

The AITHM was established by a $42.12m injection from the Queensland Government, with funding matched by the Australian Federal Government, with the aim of making northern Queensland a research and innovation hub, focused on research into tropical health and medical research.

Venture capital investment from OneVentures’ Healthcare Fund III has been supported by the Australian Government’s Biomedical Translation Fund (BTF). The BTF program was established by the Australian Government Department of Health to provide a pool of public and private funds for investment in promising biomedical innovations with commercialisation potential.

The $6M investment will help Paragen Bio achieve its first stage of development. The funding comes from AbbVie Ventures – the venture arm of AbbVie, Inc., as well as Brandon Capital’s MRCF and OneVentures.

About Paragen Bio
Paragen Bio is a biotech company based in Cairns, Queensland that is developing treatments to target autoimmune diseases using the beneficial proteins found in parasitic hookworms. A spin out from James Cook University’s Australian Institute of Tropical Health and Medicine, Paragen was commercialised in 2018 as a result of investment from Brandon Capital, OneVentures and AbbVie Ventures.

About AbbVie Ventures
AbbVie Ventures is the strategic venture capital arm of AbbVie. Investing since 2009, we focus exclusively on novel, transformational therapeutics at discovery and pre-clinical stages. Aligning with AbbVie’s strategic focus, our investments address critical needs in oncology, immunology, and neuroscience. We offer our partners access to AbbVie’s vast internal network of experts in all phases of drug development, from drug discovery through successful commercialization.

Our current portfolio is comprised of over a dozen companies based in the US and Europe. Targeting 6-8 new investments annually at the Seed or Series A stage, we have the capability and flexibility to lead or co-lead a syndicate. Our team of eight investing professionals is based in three locations: Boston, San Francisco and Chicago areas.

For more information about AbbVie Ventures, please visit

About the Medical Research Commercialisation Fund (MRCF) and Brandon Capital
Brandon Capital Partners is a venture capital firm that manages the Medical Research Commercialisation Fund (MRCF). The MRCF is a unique collaboration between major Australian superannuation funds, the Australian and New Zealand governments, Australian state governments and more than 50 leading medical research institutes and research hospitals. The MRCF supports the development and commercialisation of early-stage biomedical discoveries originating from member research organisations, providing both capital and expertise to guide the successful development of new therapies. The MRCF has supported more than 38 start-up companies to date, 33 of which were founded by the MRCF.

For more information about Brandon Capital Partners, visit

About OneVentures Healthcare Fund III
OneVentures is one of Australia’s leading venture capital firms, with over $320M in funds under management. But we do more than invest. We take companies to that all important next stage, by actively shaping their future. We apply our years of international experience, operational and executional expertise to accelerate the growth of our portfolio companies.
A global growth focus drives our investment selection with our current portfolio including companies with truly innovative products tackling multi-billion-dollar problems, from needle-free vaccinations to virtual communications to adaptive e-learning. Game changers, that deliver lasting gains.

In December 2016 OneVentures launched its $170M Healthcare Fund III, a licensee of the Australian Government Biomedical Translation Fund (BTF*). This Fund invests in therapeutics, devices and diagnostics at or near clinical development with a clear commercial, regulatory and reimbursement pathway; and well-defined value inflection and exit points on deal entry.
The Fund will invest $10 to $20 million per company in Australian domiciled companies. The OneVentures team will provide support to drive these opportunities through the clinical, regulatory and reimbursement processes to achieve prominence in global markets.

Learn more at

About the Biomedical Translation Fund (BTF)
The BTF programme was established by the Australian Government Department of Health to provide a pool of public and private funds for investment in promising biomedical innovations with commercialisation potential, managed by leading Australian venture firms. OneVentures was granted an $85 million license supported by matching capital from its private investor network, as one of three licenced venture capital fund managers. Announced in the National Innovation and Science Agenda, the BTF program will deliver long term national health and economic outcomes.

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