AFT Pharmaceuticals has announced its plan to license intellectual property from two leading scientific research centres in the hopes of developing a topical treatment for strawberry birthmarks in children.

The pharmaceutical company told the NZ stock exchange (NZX) that it had reached an agreement with Massey Ventures, a commercial subsidiary of Massey University, and the Gillies McIndoe Research Institute, to use their research.

Managing director Dr Hartley Atkinson said the agreement offered an attractive commercial opportunity and was aligned with the company’s recent drive to build up its research and development pipeline to fuel global growth aspirations.

“With the tightening economic conditions, we have seen more research and development opportunities arise so AFT is aggressively pursuing these growth opportunities,” he said. 

IP rights

Strawberry birthmarks affect up to 10% of children. Most appear on the head and neck.

In less severe cases, the birthmarks can regress spontaneously without treatment, but this can take several years. In about 15% of cases, the birthmarks need treatment during infancy because of the threat to bodily function and sometimes life.

The agreement means AFT Pharmaceuticals will have the intellectual property (IP) rights to research that has shown the synergistic action of two well-known heart medicines – beta blockers and angiotensin-converting enzyme inhibitors – in the topical treatment of strawberry birthmarks.

The pharmaceuticals company said in its statement that it will work with Massey Ventures and the Gillies McIndoe Research Institute to “finalise the ingredients for a topical treatment” and it will then lead a full medicine development programme which will include clinical studies.

'Exciting opportunity'

Massey Ventures chief executive Mark Cleaver said the agreement with AFT Pharmaceuticals and the Gillies McIndoe Research Institute was an “exciting opportunity” for the university.

“Partnerships with companies like AFT Pharmaceuticals are essential for realising a technology’s full potential,” he said.

“AFT has the networks, skills, and resources to make the most of a potentially life-changing medicine like this, and it's exciting to partner with them on this journey.”

Dr Swee Tan, founder and executive director of the Gillies McIndoe Research Institute, said the institute’s research had shown a shift in the treatment of strawberry birthmarks. 

“We’re looking forward to working with AFT and Massey Ventures to bring to the market an effective, non-invasive and safe topical treatment that can benefit children affected by this condition,” he said.

Over the next three to four years, AFT’s Atkinson said the pharmaceutical company would be launching up to 78 new products in its Australasian markets, as well as a number in global markets over the next two to five years.

AFT Pharmaceutical shares were flat at $3.50 per share in early morning trading.