25/05/2004 - 22:00

Imugene targets Chemeq’s market

25/05/2004 - 22:00

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PHARMACEUTICAL company Imugene has become a direct competitor to Chemeq after licensing a new technology developed at the University of Adelaide.

Imugene targets Chemeq’s market

PHARMACEUTICAL company Imugene has become a direct competitor to Chemeq after licensing a new technology developed at the University of Adelaide.

Its receptor-mimic technology, which is at an early stage of development, provides a biological method of disease control.

Like Imugene’s other products, it seeks to improve animal health while having no side effects, thus providing an alternative to antibiotics.

Its claims have prompted a dismissive response from Chemeq executive chairman Graham Melrose, who said “it would be irresponsible to give it credence at this stage of conjecture”.

The first product being developed with Imugene’s new technology is designed to prevent post-weaning diarrhoea caused by E.coli bacteria in piglets.

This is widely recognised as a major cause of economic loss in the intensive pig production industry, and is exactly the same disease treated by Chemeq’s polymeric antimicrobials.

A critical difference is that Chemeq’s drug kills the E.coli bacteria whereas Imugene’s product “soaks up” the damaging toxins.

Dr Melrose said Imugene’s product was “at most” complementary rather than competitive, a view disputed by Imugene.

Dr Melrose also challenged Imugene’s claim that “one of the greatest advantages of this technology is that, unlike antibiotics or antimicrobial chemicals ... the ‘beneficial’ bacteria within the gut are not killed by the receptor mimic”.

“That is just wrong and we have published specific data to the contrary,” Dr Melrose said.

The key people at Imugene are Perth-based executive chairman Graham Dowland and Sydney-based managing director Dr Warwick Lamb.

They started the business in 2002 by acquiring the rights to a new type of animal vaccine developed by CSIRO scientists.

Imugene is developing 10 different animal vaccines, including three under a collaborative agreement with US-based Merial, one of the world’s major animal health companies.

Imugene is also working with CSIRO to develop a vaccine for avian influenza, or bird flu.

It also has a minority interest in a flea control vaccine being developed at Murdoch University. It says an efficient biological vaccine could gain a large share of the $US1.5 global flea control market, which is dominated by chemical treatments.

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