31/01/2006 - 21:00

Regulatory tick for Imugene

31/01/2006 - 21:00

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Biotechnology company Imugene said it has achieved “one of its biggest regulatory milestones” with a licence for the limited release of its poultry productivity enhancer (PPE).

Regulatory tick for Imugene

Biotechnology company Imugene said it has achieved “one of its biggest regulatory milestones” with a licence for the limited release of its poultry productivity enhancer (PPE).

Imugene is one of four Australian companies, and one of dozens globally, seeking to develop new animal health products that will allow pig and poultry producers to reduce their reliance on antibiotics.

Its Perth-based chairman, Graham Dowland, is confident about the company’s prospects, despite a lack of support from investors.

He also believes the products being developed by companies such as Chemeq, Stirling Products and Melbourne-based BioDiem are complementary rather than direct competitors with Imugene’s ‘vector delivery system’.

“Antibiotics are reducing in their effectiveness, so the world is looking for alternatives,” Mr Dowland said.

“Vectors are one of six of seven novel or new ways of treating this.

“It would be naive to think there is one ‘silver bullet’ that is going to solve the ills of antibiotic replacement.

“A lot of these products will get to market and some will do very well and some will just be small sellers with niche markets.”

Mr Dowland expects that livestock farmers will cut their use of antibiotics only when they are forced to by regulation.

“Taking antibiotics away from farmers is going to be a real struggle because they trust it, they like it,” he said.

“That’s what the stock market doesn’t understand; it takes time to turn things around.”

Imugene’s core technology is an adenoviral vector delivery system, which essentially is a system for delivering vaccines to poultry and pigs in intensive farming.

Its lead product is the poultry productivity enhancer, which has been licensed by major international animal health company Merial.

Imugene is also developing a second poultry vaccine, in partnership with Israel’s Teva Pharmaceutical Industries, plus two pig vaccines and a bird flu vaccine.

Its use of licensing partnerships stands in contrast to Chemeq’s strategy of building an integrated pharmaceutical business.

Imugene believes the Merial deal highlights the value of its strategy.

“They have experienced product development teams, sophisticated sales, marketing and distribution networks and an enviable international presence,” managing director Warwick Lamb said at the time the deal was announced.

“The strength and depth of these resources far exceeds anything Imugene could replicate internally and will allow us the best possible path to market.”

Mr Dowland also believes the Merial link will hasten Imugene’s development.

“Merial’s name on our vials gives us probably a five-year head start over somebody trying to do this by themselves.”

Similarly, Imugene described its recent deal with Teva as “a pragmatic means of building our licence revenue streams”.

Interestingly, new Chemeq chief executive David Williams seems to have brought a fresh perspective, noting last December that: “We will be pragmatic in our execution of this strategy, recognising that in major markets, Chemeq may need to partner with organizations that have expertise in these markets to maximise commercial success”.

Imugene’s latest milestone was a licence approval by the Office of the Gene Technology Regulator, which will allow it to conduct further trials on its PPE product outside the laboratory.

Imugene said initial laboratory tests of PPE had demonstrated weight gains in poultry of 13.75 per cent.

It will proceed with further tests to document efficacy, minimum dosage and safety parameters to enable additional regulatory approvals for the first product sales.

The company said it had also successfully applied for a permit from the Australian Pesticides and Veterinary Medicines Authority to use the PPE product in the first international release trial.

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