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broker comments.....very interesting!

  1. 5,609 Posts.
    In July last year the world was given
    something to think about when scientists from
    the State University of New York announced
    that they had taken the publicly available
    DNA sequence for the dreaded polio virus
    and, and, with just regular lab supplies, had used the sequence to build the virus from
    scratch.

    They published the work in the journal Science to show that smart terrorists
    could do the same (click here for the whole chilling story). One reason why that news
    should be interesting for Australian biotechnology investors is a patent application
    from the newly listed Select Vaccines (SLT, $0.68, unchanged) which crossed our
    desk this week Two researchers at Melbourne's Burnet Institute, David Anderson and
    Elena Gazina, have filed for patent protection over some Anti-Viral Compounds (WO
    03/063869, formerly PCT/AU03/0093, priority date 31 January 2002).

    The anti-viral
    compounds which are covered in the patent are able to work against the action of
    viruses by their capacity to block a cell's ion channels, that is 'gates' in the membrane
    of the cell that open in response to an electrically charged element such as calcium (we
    looked at ion channels in our 1 August coverage of Axon Instruments, a company
    which makes tools for the investigation of ion channels - see below for more) . When an
    ion channel into a cell is blocked, a virus can't exploit that channel to enter the cell and
    cause its reproductive havoc within it. Anderson and Gazina have in mind for the ion
    channel blockers the prevention of infection by picorna viruses, so called because by
    viral standards they're quite tiny (pico is Greek for 'very small ).


    The picorna virus
    family includes among its number the abovementioned poliovirus, as well as the
    not-so-feared rhinovirus which causes the common cold (rhino is Greek for 'nose').
    The ion channels blockers Anti-Viral Compounds suggests can do this are mainly
    off-patent drugs which were developed with purposes totally different from fighting off
    picorna viruses. They are 1) Verapamil, an old drug (approved 1982) for the treatment
    of high blood pressure which works because it's a calcium channel blocker, the
    movement of calcium in and out of cells in blood vessels and the heart having a
    demonstrable effect on blood pressure; 2) Econazole, an anti-fungal agent that had
    been around since 1982 as the Johnson & Johnson product Spectazole; 3) Amiloride, a
    sodium channel blocker that has been on the market since Merck introduced it as
    Midanor way back in in 1967. Amiloride acts as a diuretic and is therefore often
    prescribed to lower blood pressure (people with high blood pressure tend to keep too
    much water in) and 4) a substance called Benzamil, not a pharmaceutical but a known
    sodium channel blocker nonetheless.


    Anti-Viral Compounds forms the basis of the intellectual property of Picoral, one of two ventures in which Select Vaccines is involved. Select, readers of this email will
    recall, is the most recently listed member of the Peregrine Corporate stable, it having
    been formed to become the unofficial commercialisation arm of the Burnet Institute
    with David Anderson as Chief Scientific Officer. Picoral is working on potential
    antiviral drugs for the common cold as well as doing high throughput screening
    looking for more compounds like those outlined in the Anti-Viral Compounds patent.


    While the suggestion of a cure for the common cold may raise hackles and may prove
    uneconomic due to the other rationally designed approaches potentially available, a
    drug-based method to defeat picorna viruses could lead to a big payoff. That's because
    it opens up a whole new approach
    to viral disease management that
    doesn't depend on vaccines, an area
    pharmaceutical companies have
    difficulty staying in due to the low
    returns available.

    One could also
    envisage a day when government
    agencies responsible for keeping
    picorna viruses like polio or
    Hepatitis A out of the population are looking to
    have an arsenal of back up options in the event of vaccine unavailability. Picoral is
    therefore worth watching to see what Anderson's team come up with.
    Select Vaccines has had a good run, the other project in the company, Hepgenics,
    which is working mainly on commercialising cheap and fast working hepatitis
    diagnostics in Asia.


    Nonetheless the interesting nature of the science suggests that
    Select might be worth paying some attention to if they can get some traction from out
    of the Burnet scientists initial work.
 
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