06/04/2004 - 22:00

Ozgene grows its client base

06/04/2004 - 22:00


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Ozgene grows its client base

BIOTECHNOLOGY firm Ozgene says its aim is to create a large bio-pharmaceutical operation in Western Australia to rival its global multinational competitors.

And with multi-million dollar turnover and exponential growth marking the rise of the firm in the few years since it was established, Ozgene is well placed to reach its ambitious goal.

Ozgene has built an international reputation through the production and export of genetically modified mice and rats that, according to founder and director Dr Frank Koentgen, is the first step in imitating the growth and success of companies such as Roche Pharmaceutical, where he began his working life.

Ozgene specialises in the production of GM mice and rats that could be the key to discovering treatment for the world’s most debilitating diseases.

Dr Koentgen said GM mice and rats represented the most sophisticated and valuable tools in the functional genomics industry.

The science behind the business involves creating animals for research that mimic particular diseases, in that they are either ‘knock out’, having had a specific gene removed, or ‘knock in’ having had a mutation made to a particular gene.

The mice or rats created are used by some of the world’s most renowned research institutes, universities and pharmaceutical companies to create treatments for diseases such as cystic fibrosis.

The company also offers services for clients that can track the progress of certain projects online through a database system called OzMouse.

OzMouse allows the production, analysis and customer updating of all GM mouse and rat projects from the time the company receives an order to product shipment.

With the business established in a specialist area of specific research, Ozgene has established an operation to rival its competition and has quickly established an international client base that drove it to positive cash flow within the first years of operation.

Ozgene continues to grow exponentially and has already recorded $6 million in revenue this financial year.

This eclipses revenues in previous years of $3.2 million for the full financial year in 2002-03, $2.1 million in 2001-02 and $600,000 in 2000-01.

The company’s most recent contract win was a three-year $US8.5 million deal with major US research institute National Institute of Health (NIH), the largest single deal the company has signed to date.

Speaking at the time of signing the deal, Dr Koentgen said the contract “clearly acknowledges that Ozgene is internationally recognised as a reliable and innovative service provider” of GM mice and rats.

“We believe this award [of the NIH contract] has the potential to trigger an avalanche of new projects and customers,” he said.

In the past three months, Ozgene has been awarded contracts from the Riken Institute in Japan and a large pharmaceutical company in the Netherlands. The company also has entered partnership deals with the Scripps Research Institute and Sangamo Biosciences, both in the US.

Ozgene also has strategic partnerships with Bionomics Limited in Adelaide, Benitec Limited in Brisbane and Tanzyme Inc in Alabama, US.

The company’s growth is driving expansion into larger, custom-built premises in Bentley’s Technology Park.

Having already moved into stage one of the custom-built premises in August last year, the company now has a building extension on the drawing board that it plans to have operational before the end of the year.

Ozgene employs around 50 staff, having hired 17 new team members in the past six months.

Dr Koentgen established Ozgene in 1999 with his wife, Dr Gabi Suess, who is Ozgene’s chief scientific officer.

Dr Koentgen and Dr Suess each has more than 15 years’ experience in the specialised field of generating mice and rats, and both started their working lives working for Roche in Switzerland and later in the US.

They established Ozgene in Perth in consultation with the Animal Resources Centre at Murdoch University after heading up a similar facility in Melbourne.

Ozgene was the recipient of a 2003 Western Australian Export Award and was finalist in the 2002 WA Export Awards.

-         Alison Birrane


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