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Regular news within the Australian biotech industry.

Antisense progresses psoriasis project to proof of concept study

July 24 – Antisense Therapeutics Ltd is to undertake a proof of concept study into the activity of its ATL1101 cream in humans suffering from psoriasis. A drug's activity is not typically established until completion of Phase II clinical trials. However, a proof of concept study is a relatively inexpensive way to determine effectiveness for a disease such as psoriasis, relative to many other diseases. The study will not replace the need for formal human clinical trials, but will bolster the company's confidence in pursuing commercial development of ATL1101, and will provide sufficient data to pursue potential partnering opportunities earlier in the development of the final product.

[Source: Company Announcement]

Axon Instruments wins award for OpusXpress

July 31 – Axon Instruments Inc, which has offices in both California and Melbourne, has been awarded an R&D 100 award for its OpusXpress 6000A electrophysiology workstation. The award, sponsored by R&D Magazine, recognises the 100 most innovative new technologies of the past 12 months. The OpusXpress is the world's first commercially available, multichannel, automated oocyte voltage-clamp recording system. It automates high-resolution parallel recordings of channel function for secondary ion-channel screening, making high-throughput electrophysiology possible for the first time.

[Source: Company Announcement]

Biota in talks to fast track HIV drug

July 30 – Biota Holdings Ltd is in talks with two potential partners to develop an HIV drug that it believes could be fast tracked to market. The two prospective partners form part of a dozen potential collaborators identified by the company. Biota announced in April that it has created nucleotide mimics, novel versions of nucleoside drugs, with greater impact and fewer side effects than Zidovudine, a leading anti-HIV nucleoside drug. Biota believes that the drug could be brought to market relatively quickly because the compound is based on an existing drug whose side effect profile is well known to the FDA. This ought to speed up the trials and testing process. Managing Director Peter Molloy said of the drug's pathway to market that he would be 'disappointed if it weren't significantly shorter than a classical clinical development pathway for a new drug'.

[Source: Reuters]

Biotron discovers potential SARS treatment

July 28 – Biotron Ltd has announced that its researchers have discovered a potential new approach to the treatment of the SARS coronavirus. Researchers from the company found that the E protein of the SARS virus forms an ion channel, and that this activity can be blocked. A provisional patent application covering this discovery was filed on 25 July 2003. These latest results are an extension of the Company's Virion ion channel technology platform, which is also being targeted to combat Hepatitis C and HIV-1.

[Source: Company Announcement]

C3 contracts Ventrex to manufacture ReCell

July 30 – Perth based Clinical Cell Culture Ltd has announced that Ventrex Inc has been contracted to manufacture its ReCell autologous skin cell harvesting device. It will be the first medical device of its kind and is to be targeted at the plastic and cosmetic surgery markets. The device will allow surgeons to treat an area of skin equivalent to the size of an A4 sheet of paper within approximately 30 minutes of taking a biopsy from the patient. Ventrex has been contracted to carry out some of the manufacturing, and the final assembly of the ReCell kit. It has approvals to manufacture medical devices from all major regulatory bodies around the world.

[Source: Company Announcement]

Chemeq announce end of year loss, but sales revenues not far off

July 28 – Chemeq Ltd has announced a loss of A$7.28m for the 2002-03 financial year, but has reassured investors that the loss is in line with the company's budget and that it is now on the threshold of earning sales revenue. Chemeq attributed the loss, which was incurred despite capital raising of A$25m from placements to institutional and sophisticated investors, to the cost of building its new manufacturing facility. CEO Dr Graham Melrose said that key staff have been appointed in all areas of the business, and regulatory and marketing efforts have increased with a view to achieving production and sales of the company's veterinary drug in the 2004 financial year.

[Source: Company Announcement]

GTG grants licence to non-coding patents to University of Sydney

July 25 – Genetic Technologies Ltd has granted a research licence to its non-coding patents to the University of Sydney. This is the first licence granted by GTG to a university. It will permit the University to expand its genetic research program into the non-coding regions of many genomes. Any future commercial applications derived from the research will require a further licence from GTG. GTG has said that it will continue to actively support all efforts by other Australian research institutions to seek similar research licences, and it will continue to make its non-coding patents readily accessible for research purposes.

[Source: Company Announcement]

Medica completes A$4.3m share placement

July 29 – Medica Holdings Ltd has announced that it has completed a A$4.3m share placement with Australian institutional and sophisticated investors. The placement of the issue at A$0.75 reflects a 5 per cent discount on the company's share price in the week prior to completion of the offer. Managing Director Dr Kevin Healey said that the funds will be used in part to continue the development of Cytopia's anti-cancer molecules. Medica owns approximately 79 per cent of Cytopia. Medica also recently led a A$2.75m capital raising for Alchemia, and invested a further A$1m in the company to lift its stake to 21 per cent prior to a possible listing of the company on the ASX later in 2003.

[Source: Company Announcement]

Proteome Systems to develop data mining tools with CSIRO

July 23 – Proteome Systems Ltd and CSIRO have announced the signing of an agreement to develop tools for the statistical analysis of protein expression data. These tools are aimed at bringing a more thorough analysis to Proteome Systems' bioinformatics platform, accelerating the identification of proteins and their modifications that are commercially significant. Vice President of Bioinformatics at Proteome Systems explained the value of the agreement: 'Multivariate statistical tools allow the massive proteomic data sets to be explored in depth to revel which of the thousand of proteins under study are contributing to the changes in a biological system or disease'. The resulting data mining applications will be tested extensively by Proteome Systems' in-house discovery programs.

[Source: Company Announcement]

pSivida subsidiary strengthens Singaporean ties

July 30 – pSiMedica, the UK subsidiary of Perth based pSivida, has strengthened its relationship with the Singapore General Hospital, entering into a research materials agreement to evaluate the use of BioSilicon in tissue engineering applications. This agreement follows up on last year's joint venture between the Hospital and pSiMedica to develop BioSilicon based brachytherapy products to treat cancers in situ. The new agreement will see the use of BioSilicon as a scaffold to assist in the growth of tissue cells for applications to craniofacial and reconstructive surgery. As the tissue deposits itself on to the scaffold, the BioSilicon slowly dissolves away leaving just the new tissue. pSivida has also announced that its recent Share Purchase Plan has raised A$922,978 in funds to be applied toward general working capital.

[Source: Company Announcement]

Starpharma receives FDA approval for human trials of anti-HIV gel

July 31 – Melbourne biotech company Starpharma Pooled Development Ltd has received FDA clearance to proceed with human clinical trials of its new dendrimer nano-drug VivaGel. The gel will be used as a preventative against the transmission of HIV during sexual intercourse. It has been highly successful in preventing infection in monkey trials using a humanised strain of simian immunodeficiency virus. The human trials of the gel will take place in Australia. The Victorian company Institute of Drug Technology Australia Ltd has assisted Starpharma in the development of the gel, and is expected to provide further assistance during the Phase I trials.

[Source: Company Announcement]

Stem Cell Sciences to expand Melbourne and Edinburgh operations

July 23 – Melbourne based Stem Cell Sciences Ltd has announced that it plans to expand its operations in Melbourne and Edinburgh, Scotland following the company's recent A$6.1m financing round. BioTech Capital Ltd, one of Australia's largest life science private equity funds invested A$3m in acquiring a 14.6 per cent stake in SCS. Edinburgh based Archangels Informal Investments Ltd and the Scottish Enterprise Co-investment Fund invested a further A$2.8m for a 13.7 per cent stake. BioTech Capital is now the second largest shareholder in SCS, and will have a seat on the Board. The new funds will also enable SCS to strengthen its European activities by establishing a new UK based company, Stem Cell Sciences Holdings Ltd. The new company will be chaired by former director of The Wellcome Trust Dr Michael Dexter.

[Source: Company Announcement]

UniQuest spin-off receives funding boost for cardiovascular drug development

July 24 – Researchers from the University of Queensland, who have developed a new drug to modify blood clotting that does not have the side effects of existing medication, have received venture capital and government support to assist the commercialisation of their research. Thrombostat Pty Ltd, the Brisbane based UniQuest spin-off company, has received A$428,000 in venture capital from UniSeed, a dedicated pre-seed fund. The company has also received A$250,000 through AusIndustry's Biotechnology Innovation Fund, and A$1,250,000 under the Queensland Government's BioStart program. The global market for anti-clotting agents to treat cardiovascular disease and thrombosis has been estimated as being worth A$4.3bn.

[Source: Company Announcement]


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