30/10/2007 - 22:00

Partnerships pay off for Phylogica

30/10/2007 - 22:00

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Biotechnology companies in Western Australia have posted checkered results of late, but Subiaco-based bio-pharmaceutical company Phylogica Ltd has defied the trend through its business model, according to co-founder Paul Watt.

Partnerships pay off for Phylogica

Biotechnology companies in Western Australia have posted checkered results of late, but Subiaco-based bio-pharmaceutical company Phylogica Ltd has defied the trend through its business model, according to co-founder Paul Watt.

In the past two years, the company has signed international pharmaceutical company Johnson & Johnson Research Pty Ltd as a partner, and reached commercialisation milestones through its Opsona Therapeutics Ltd partnership.

Phylogica’s Phylomer drug therapies, discovered by Dr Watt at the Telethon Institute for Child Health Research, provided the foundation for the spin-off company where he is vice president of drug discovery.

The former WA Business News 40under40 winner said that, with 11 scientists now working in the company’s laboratory, his was focused on business development.

“I actually really enjoy thinking about the structure of an experiment and the interpretation of data, and every now and then I get the opportunity to analyse data,” he said.

“But the job of a chief scientist, which is really my job, is to look into the future of technology and ensure the company has the most competitive technology.”

Phylogica’s business model is drug development through two streams – partnerships with international pharmaceutical companies, and an internal self-funded pipeline.

The latter has produced a burns treatment which is scheduled for Phase 1 human trials next year, though a collaboration with Fiona Wood’s McComb Foundation.

Dr Watt said partnerships were essential to diversifying risk in the biotechnology sector.

“I think the key challenge facing any Australian biotech is resources, both fiscal and human,” he said.

“In my opinion, the only rational way of facing the challenge is to partner with another company.”

He believes the reason many biotech companies in Australia have failed was their inability to spread financial and technological risk. “The reason investors become disappointed is the unrealistic expectation that a company can [licence and market a product] on its own. You also have a lot more shots on goal if you have a means of generating more than one lead for drug candidates.”

Since listing on the ASX in 2005, Phylogica has diversified into other therapies, including a program to treat traumatic brain injury and stroke.

The company is also buoyed by the fact that overseas companies within a similar space are being acquired by large pharmaceuticals at a relatively early stage of product development.

Dr Watt said Phylogica was halfway to being a potential takeover target, due to a number of patents being prosecuted in the past year and its Phase 1 trials due to go ahead.

Another of Dr Watt’s inventions – the Funhaler child asthma spacer – has recently been commercialised and distributed by Nedlands-based Visiomed Group Ltd, where he sits on the board.

•Nominations for the 2008 WA Business News 40under40 awards are open. Visit www.40under40.com.au to nominate.

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