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Sumich in biotech rush

THE shell of failed fruit and vegetable exporter Sumich Group is being resurrected as a biotechnology hopeful, joining eight WA companies loosely representing the sector on the stock market.

Investors led by Perth businessman Gavin Rezos have moved to revitalise Sumich which collapsed in 1998 under a mountain of debt.

Mr Rezos and his fellow new board members Roger Aston and Tony Grist will end up with about 30 per cent of Sumich after shareholders approved the refinancing proposal last week.

It is understood other new investors will take up about 61 per cent of the company leaving the original share-holders with the rest.

The move will see Sumich enter in a UK joint venture deal with British-based Defence Evaluation and Re-search Agency and a company associated with Mr Rezos, CapTel Biotechnology.

The joint venture plans to com-mercialise a product which creates a wider range of applications for silicon.

Sumich joins a healthy list of WA companies which have credentials related to the biotechnology.

Eight local companies worth a combined $550 million are trading on the stock market and at least one newcomer, VRI Biomedical, will join with the refashioned Sumich to further boost the scale of this industry.

Five of these companies have listed in the last 24 months and have achieved a combined market capitalisation of $419 million

Two companies, Q-VIS and Sirtex, make up the bulk of that market capitalisation, representing about $370 million between them.

Overall, WA is believed to have 24 biotechnology companies representing 13 per cent of Australia's 185 dedicated biotechnology companies. Queensland has 11 per cent of the national total of biotechnology companies.

The Deloitte Biotech Index is based upon 47 shares listed on the ASX includes eight WA companies which have a combined index weighting of 2.32 per cent. That compares with five Queensland companies with a weighting of 1.29 per cent.

Three big companies CSL, Cochlear and Resmed Inc make up 71 per cent of the index weighting by market capitalisation.

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