Rheumatoid Arthritis vaccine 

Professor Ranjeny Thomas has led the development and Phase I clinical trial of a first-in-class immunotherapy for the treatment of Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA).

Professor Ranjeny Thomas from The University of Queensland on Vimeo.

Head Researcher Professor Ranjeny Thomas
Team Members

Dr Brendan O’Sullivan
Dr Nigel Davies
Dr Srinivas Mutalik
Dr Soi Law
Dr Hanno Nel
Dr Helen Benham
Mr Suman Yekollu
Dr Bijun Zen
Ms Helen Roberts

Body Part Joints
Equipment Used Vaccine
Process Used Treating the cause of Rheumatoid Arthritis and not the symptoms
Research Areas Genomics, Immunotherapies
Disease Autoimmune – Rheumatoid Arthritis
Commercial Partnerships Until 2019: Jansen-Biotech 
Institutions UQDI, SoM, UQ-MRI, PAH

Professor Thomas is a rheumatologist at The University of Queensland Diamantina Institute based at the TRI. The scientist has been working on an immunotherapy treatment for rheumatoid arthritis for more than 20 years.

Rheumatoid arthritis is a debilitating autoimmune disease that causes joint pain and cardiovascular complications. The disease affects more than 450,000 Australians and about 1% of adults worldwide.

In 2015, Professor Thomas led the world’s first human trials of an immunotherapy using patients’ own dendritic cells. Following this successful trial, the research team developed the nanoparticle therapy, DEN-181.

DEN-181 is ‘loaded’ with an anti-inflammatory drug and a joint self-antigen designed for patients with specific high-risk rheumatoid arthritis genes.

In 2017, clinical trials began for the therapy at TRI’s Clinical Research Facility located on the Princess Alexandra Hospital (PAH) campus.  The trial was led by Dr. Phillip Vecchio and Dr. Amee Sonigra from the PAH Rheumatology Department.

Professor Thomas said, “This is the first time it has been used in patients, so it is tremendously exciting. Commercialisation through to a clinical trial is the bridge to translating scientific data into clinical practice.”

DEN-181 is being commercialised by UniQuest – UQ’s technology transfer company. 

In 2013, UniQuest entered into a Research Collaboration and Option to License Agreement with US-based Janssen Biotech, Inc. and in 2016 the parties extended that agreement to cover funding for a Phase 1 clinical trial. 

Further details of the study including patient eligibility criteria are available at www.anzctr.com using search term ‘Dendright’. The study was completed in late 2019.

Translational Research - Milestone T3

Professor Thomas undertook ‘proof of concept’ clinical trials to develop the liposome technology.  She then founded “Dendright” to commercialise the liposome technology, and commenced a collaborative partnership (and option to licence) with Janssen-Biotech, the US pharmaceutical subsidiary of Johnson and Johnson in 2013. Dendright has commenced first-in-human dosing of its product candidate, DEN-181 in a Phase 1b clinical trial

> For further information on volunteering for or participating in clinical research, if you or a relative have rheumatoid arthritis, contact [email protected]

> For further information on commercial vaccine development for rheumatoid arthritis, type 1 diabetes, and other autoimmune diseases, and opportunities for partnering, contact UnIQuest.

Professor Ranjeny Thomas