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    BIOTA HOLDINGS LIMITED 2003-05-19 ASX-SIGNAL-G

    HOMEX - Melbourne

    +++++++++++++++++++++++++
    Biota Holdings Limited (ASX: BTA) announced today that it has been
    awarded a $2.7 million R&D Start Grant to advance its RSV
    (Respiratory Syncytial Virus) drug development program.

    RSV is a highly contagious respiratory virus that is the major cause
    of infant bronchitis and a frequent cause of pneumonia. RSV infection
    in infants and in the elderly, particularly those with underlying
    respiratory or cardiac disease, can be serious, leading in some cases
    to hospitalisation and even death.

    "RSV outbreaks occur every year and there is a medical need for a
    safe and cost-effective antiviral treatment," said Biota's Director
    of Business Development, Dr Jane Ryan. The Company believes that a
    small molecule drug for treatment and prevention of RSV infection
    would have a significant competitive advantage.

    Biota's RSV program aims to develop an orally-available antiviral
    drug for the treatment and prevention of RSV infection. The program
    has targeted the 'F protein' (fusion protein) on the surface of the
    virus. Utilising the same 'structure based drug design' technology
    that gave birth to Relenza(TM), Biota scientists developed a model of
    the F protein and then identified compounds that inhibit its
    function.

    "Over the last twelve months, our research team has set and met
    aggressive timelines for this program, with the result that we now
    have a series of compounds we can describe as early leads," said
    Biota CEO, Peter Molloy. "The RSV program represents an important
    component of our respiratory drug discovery pipeline." In addition to
    influenza and RSV infection, Biota is also conducting research into
    drugs for the treatment of the common cold.

    ABOUT THE R&D START PROGRAM

    The Commonwealth Government's R&D Start program is a merit based
    program administered by the Industry Research & Development Board,
    established to advance Australian R&D and its commercialisation. R&D
    Start offers successful applicants up to 50% of eligible project
    costs.

    "The Start program provides a vital source of funding for
    pre-commercial stage drug discovery research in Australia," said Mr
    Molloy. The Company expects that the grant of $2.7m over two years
    will help advance the RSV research to the point where the lead
    compounds are optimised and potentially ready for preclinical
    development and partnering.

    For further information contact:

    Peter Molloy
    CHIEF EXECUTIVE OFFICER
    Tel: +61 3 9529 2311
    www.biota.com.au

    (TM)Relenza is a registered trademark of the GlaxoSmithKline group
 
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