04/06/2009 - 00:00

Mice made to order

04/06/2009 - 00:00

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A WESTERN Australian biotechnology firm has signed an agreement it says will establish it as a world leader in medical research.

Mice made to order

A WESTERN Australian biotechnology firm has signed an agreement it says will establish it as a world leader in medical research.

Perth-based Ozgene has won a five-year, $US13.5 million ($A16.6 million) deal to supply genetically modified mice to the US-based National Institute of Health (NIH).

The contract was Ozgene's second with the NIH, after it previously won a five-year, $US12 million tender in 2004.

Genetically modified mice and rats are currently the only animal models that allow researchers to mimic human genetic disorders at a molecular level.

"The first basic step towards researchers understanding any specific disease is actually getting the mouse model," Ozgene business development manager Eddie Noonan said.

According to Mr Noonan, winning the NIH tender for a second time was a significant accomplishment that would help facilitate further international expansion.

"Getting the NIH grant again is a good stamp of approval," he said.

"It's very good for us marketing into the US, that one of their biggest research institutes is going overseas."

With annual turnover up to $7 million, Ozgene facilitates up to 120 projects each year, supplying specific mouse models to educational research organisations, and medical and pharmaceutical researchers worldwide.

"About 90 per cent of our business is export," Mr Noonan told WA Business News.

"Basically every major research institute in the US ... we would be working with some of their researchers and making mouse models."

Ozgene also has international supply agreements with researchers at University Louis Pasteur, The University of Tokyo, King's College, and Oxford University, among others.

Mr Noonan said Ozgene's longevity was its main competitive advantage.

"We've been here for 10 years, so we have the inherent expertise in making mice," he said.

"It's a competitive industry, and we've had the longevity in the market.

"Our customers can see that, and their publications are continually proving that if people come to us, we can actually make the mouse model they require."

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