A drug developed by Australian researchers from an antibody discovered in shark blood has been approved for world-first human trials.
The drug, developed by researchers at Melbourne's La Trobe University, will be tested on patients suffering from a range of serious health problems after receiving a multi-million-dollar funding boost.
In the laboratory, the drug managed to successfully prevent fibrosis: the formation of connective tissue which thickens and scars, causing irreparable damage.
The drug, which relies on a manufactured human protein based on the shape of the shark antibody, is now also being tested for the treatment of fibrosis of the lungs, kidney, eyes, skin, liver and heart.
"Fibrosis is the end result of a lot of different disease and it can be deadly," Mick Foley, from the La Trobe Institute for ¬Molecular Science, told News Limited on Monday.
"If there is disease or injury in an organ and the wound tries to heal and it overshoots, you get too much collagen and a build-up of fibrosis tissue, which eventually causes organ failure."
Foley, who is chief scientific officer of biotechnology company AdAlta who worked with La Trobe University researchers in developing the drug, said listing the company on the Australian Stock Exchange (ASX) had raised 7.5 million US dollars to take the drug into human trials in 2018.
Foley said that if the shark blood was injected directly into a human, the body would recognize it as a foreign molecule and reject it.
"Our trick was to make a molecule in the lab that looks like the shark's, but it's human so it won't be rejected by the body," he said.
The antibody used was extracted from a wobbegong shark but is thought to be present in most species.