BTA 0.00% 57.0¢ biota holdings limited

biota and avian flu and sars

  1. 762 Posts.
    Following scathing criticism of the Biota board by myself and many other shareholders, we finally get some info on what Biota is doing. There is great opportunity here for Biota.


    BIOTA HOLDINGS LIMITED 2003-04-24 ASX-SIGNAL-G

    HOMEX - Melbourne

    +++++++++++++++++++++++++
    Biota Holdings Limited (ASX:BTA) is a world leader in respiratory
    antiviral drug and diagnostic research. Accordingly, the Company has
    received many enquiries from shareholders and the public about the
    Company's response to SARS (Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome) and
    recent outbreaks of avian flu.

    AVIAN FLU OUTBREAK

    Over the last few days, reports have emerged from the Netherlands of
    a dramatic outbreak of avian (or bird) flu, caused by the influenza A
    (H7N7) virus. While avian flu spreads mainly among chickens, it has
    the potential to spread to humans. Earlier this year, an outbreak of
    avian flu was reported in Hong Kong, resulting in the deaths of two
    family members. This week, a major outbreak in chickens was reported
    in the Netherlands, the EU's largest poultry exporter, leading to the
    reported slaughter of 16 million animals across 920 farms, and
    transport bans introduced by at least one neighbouring country. So
    far, one Dutch veterinarian has died after contracting the avian flu,
    following a visit to a farm infected with the virus. Reports of
    infections in significant numbers of other people are now emerging.

    The Dutch strain of avian flu, referred to as H7N7 is different to
    the strain of avian flu reported in Hong Kong earlier this year,
    which was H5N1. Vaccines are in early stages of development for the
    H5N1 strain, but would not be effective against the H7N7 strain.
    Fortunately, antiviral drugs such as RelenZa(TM) are effective
    against all strains of flu, including both avian strains. According
    to a Dutch Health Ministry spokesperson, "If (the veterinarian) had
    taken his antivirals he probably wouldn't have died."

    "Outbreaks such as this, point to the role that antiviral drugs such
    as Relenza can play, both in managing influenza epidemics and in
    curtailing the spread of novel influenza strains," said Biota CEO,
    Peter Molloy.

    For the last several years, the incidence of flu has been low, but
    experts agree that a major global epidemic will almost certainly
    occur in the future. In January this year, a severe outbreak in Japan
    led to the closure of 500 schools across the country and rapid
    depletion of the available stocks of Relenza.

    "If this were repeated in the future and spread to the US or Europe,
    it would be difficult to keep up supplies," said Mr Molloy. Some
    governments are now endorsing stockpiling of anti-influenza drugs.

    One of the concerns about the avian flu is that it might start
    spreading from human to human. The World Health Organisation has
    stated that there is no evidence of this at present and that all
    current infections appear to be related to contact with infected
    chickens.

    SARS AND BIOTA

    Unlike influenza, SARS is caused by infection with a novel strain of
    coronavirus. This is a family of viruses, some of which are
    responsible for colds in humans.

    "Because Relenza works by targeting the neuraminidase protein on the
    surface of the influenza virus, and coronaviruses do not possess the
    neuraminidase protein, it is most unlikely that Relenza would be of
    any benefit against SARS," said Dr Simon Tucker, Biota's Director of
    Research.

    Some have speculated that Biota's anti-rhinovirus compound, currently
    in preclinical development, or one of its other antiviral compounds
    might prove to be effective against SARS.

    "Whether any of our antiviral compounds are effective against the
    SARS virus remains to be established," said Dr Tucker.

    One thing well established is that the development and evaluation of
    any novel SARS drug is likely to take several years. A major
    constraint in the testing and development of any new drug against
    SARS is that, due to the pathogenicity of the virus, the studies can
    only be conducted in research centres with stringent containment
    facilities.

    "Because Biota does not have such facilities," said Dr Tucker, "We
    intend to work with US investigators to test our compounds against
    SARS isolates." In the meantime, the Company is evaluating the use of
    common coronaviruses for preliminary testing of its library of
    antiviral drugs.

    DIAGNOSTICS PLAY A VITAL ROLE

    "Treating SARS is only half the story," said Biota CEO, Peter
    Molloy. "Detection is the other pressing concern."

    SARS presents as an influenza-like illness (ILI), and in the absence
    of any rapid, point-of-care diagnostic assay, is very difficult to
    distinguish from influenza. Biota's FLU OIA assay detects all types
    of influenza, and provides a quick and accurate confirmation that the
    illness is flu rather than SARS. This could make it useful as a first
    screen for those presenting with ILI symptoms, particularly during
    the influenza season.

    "We have had considerable interest in the FLU OIA assay from
    prospective distributors in Asia, as a result of the SARS outbreak
    and the earlier avian flu outbreak in Hong Kong," Mr Molloy also
    noted that FLU OIA would readily detect the avian flu and be useful
    in the current European outbreak.

    BIO-DEFENSE IMPLICATIONS

    The SARS and avian flu outbreaks have highlighted the seriousness of
    respiratory viral diseases to health authorities around the world.
    One area of government vigilance and concern is the possible use of
    influenza or other respiratory viruses as bio-terrorism agents. Biota
    is currently working with US authorities to investigate possible ways
    in which Biota can contribute to combating this threat and
    potentially participate in the funding available for research into
    such programs.

    THE NEXT GENERATION OF FLU THERAPIES

    The increasing importance of influenza means that ongoing research
    and development into improved influenza therapies is vital. Biota
    continues to progress its FLUNET(TM) program, aimed at developing
    second-generation influenza drugs, capable of once-weekly dosage and
    suitable for prevention as well as treatment of all types of
    influenza.

    The FLUNET program is currently at the preclinical stage and the
    Company is seeking development partners to take its drug candidates
    into human trials.

    For further information, please contact:
    Mr Peter Molloy (CEO) or Dr Simon Tucker (Director, Research)
    Biota Holdings Limited
    Tel +61 3 9529 2311

    www.biota.com.au

    Relenza is a registered trademark of the GlaxoSmithKline group of
    companies
    FLU OIA is a registered trademark of Thermo BioStar Inc
    FLUNET is a registered trademark of Biota Scientific Management Pty
    Ltd
 
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