BTA 0.00% 57.0¢ biota holdings limited

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    Biota Secures SARS Testing Agreement with US Government Research Agencies

    19 September 2003
    Biota Holdings Limited (ASX:BTA) announced today that it had executed an agreement with two US
    government agencies--the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) and the US Army
    Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases (USAMRIID)--to test Biota's antiviral compounds for
    activity against SARS. Under the agreement, which runs for three years, Biota will send selected compounds to USAMRIID, or in some cases to companies contracted by the NIAID or USAMRIID, to undertake testing for activity against
    clinical isolates of the SARS virus. Because SARS is a serious, contagious viral disease, only a small number
    of facilities worldwide are adequately equipped for handling and testing of the virus. In addition to SARS,
    under the agreement Biota's compounds will be evaluated also as potential treatments for other serious
    viral infections, including Smallpox. Biota CEO Peter Molloy said: "We have been working toward this agreement for several months. Now we
    can start assessing our existing compounds for possible activity against SARS." Biota is Australia's leading antiviral drug discovery company and has a suite of potential viral inhibitors
    assembled over many years of antiviral research, many of which will be tested under the agreement.
    Initially, the Company plans to send approximately 40 selected representative compounds for evaluation. "If any of these prove to be active, our plan would be to modify them structurally with a goal to enhance their activity and then resubmit them for further testing," said Dr Simon Tucker, head of Biota's research
    group in Australia. "Of course, we may well find that none of them in this first set display any useful
    activity." In addition to the testing of existing compounds in the United States, Biota will be conducting research in
    Australia into potential new drugs for SARS. "Our SARS drug discovery program is at a very early stage, but our aim is to try to design potential drugs by
    targeting key proteins of the virus," Dr Tucker added. This is the same `Structure Based Drug Design' approach Biota used to discover RelenzaTM and which underpins the Company's common cold and RSV
    (Respiratory Syncytial Virus) drug discovery programs. About Biota
    Biota has its headquarters in Melbourne and is one of Australia's leading drug discovery biotech companies,
    with a track record of success in viral respiratory diseases. Biota's first breakthrough was the discovery of neuraminidase inhibitors, leading to the worldwide launch of RelenzaTM by GlaxoSmithKline in 1999. For Immediate Release
    Biota Secures SARS Testing Agreement with US Government Research Agencies Page 2 of 2 19 September 2003 Relenza remains the only Australian drug to be taken all the way from discovery to registration and
    marketing. Biota's other viral respiratory disease programs include FLUNETTM (long-acting neuraminidase inhibitors), the FLU OIA?diagnostic assay, RSV (Respiratory Syncytial Virus responsible for some lower respiratory infections), and HRV (Human Rhinovirus, a key virus responsible for the common cold). The HRV program was supported by an AusIndustry R&D Start grant that concluded in 2001, and in May
    2003, Biota announced a second $2.7 million Start grant in support of its RSV development program. Also
    in May 2003, the Company announced an important licensing agreement with Japanese pharmaceutical
    giant Sankyo, which is expected to accelerate FLUNET partnering activities. Biota is also currently seeking
    to expand sales of the FLU OIA diagnostic into Asia and Europe.
    For further information contact:
    Mr Tim Duncan
    Hinton & Associates Tel: +61 3 9600 1979
    Mobile: 0408 441 122
    www.biota.com.au



    TMRelenza is a registered trademark of the GlaxoSmithKline group of companies ?FLU OIA is a registered trademark of Thermo BioStar Inc TMFLUNET is a registered trademark of Biota Scientific Management Pty Ltd
 
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