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Major NZ Biotech Initiative Gets Open Door

$20m Capital Fund Raising Opens Door For Major New Zealand Biotech Initiative

The closing of the successful $20m fund raising by Birnie Capital Partners and Protemix is a major step in the development of the New Zealand biotech industry.

Protemix, a leading biotechnology company, develops new therapies for diabetes, and associated cardiovascular disease, and metabolic disorders. It has an extensive pipeline of diabetes-related drugs, including one potential “blockbuster” already in Phase 2 trials and about to enter multi-national Phase 3 trials. The compounds involved in this venture have been developed by a scientific team led by New Zealand’s leading biochemist Professor Garth Cooper and diabetes physician Associate Professor John Baker at the Protemix facilities located within the University of Auckland. The potential of the lead compound is affirmed by the approval of the US Federal Drug administration to grant fast track status to this treatment because of its significance.

“The strength of the intellectual capital coming from Professor Cooper’s Protemix laboratory makes ventures such as this one possible,” Mr. Birnie said. “Our ability to raise the capital for Protemix reflects the quality of the Company's achievements to date and the confidence that our investors have in the development of world class science by New Zealanders. We look forward to working with the management team at Protemix to take their discoveries to the international market, adding to the developing biopharmaceutical industry in New Zealand. “

Mr. Birnie also acknowledged the assistance this project had received from the Government in the form of a $2million underwrite of Government Research and Science Technology funding announced by The Hon Jim Anderton Minister for Economic, Industry and Regional Development and the Hon Pete Hodgson Minister of Research, Science and Technology today. “This is a win/win transaction”, said Mr. Birnie. “The Protemix team has achieved groundbreaking research, which will be significant in the establishment of a strong biotech industry in New Zealand”.

Mr. Birnie said the Protemix team’s discoveries have already achieved international recognition from the highest levels of the medical and pharmaceutical world, which in the future will be important in taking the next steps towards the international commercialisation of the Protemix compounds.

Protemix’s Dr Garth Cooper says the new funding builds on prior private investments made over a ten year period in developing the platform for Protemix. The company was co-founded in 1999 by Drs Cooper and Baker when they merged their intellectual property; Dr Cooper is the Chief Scientific Officer and Interim CEO, and Dr Baker the Chief Medical Officer. Previously each had worked separately, personally funding their own research endeavours.

“I am delighted that the development of the intellectual property, which has been generated through nearly 10 years of research, will be further developed in New Zealand,” said Dr Cooper. “Getting a drug to market is a long-term project which can take many years and requires substantial on-going funding. Clearly there are a number of further financing options that we will need to explore in the future, but we are fortunate to be well advanced with our lead compound.”

The Protemix discovery programme remains within Dr Cooper’s laboratories at the University of Auckland. Dr Baker heads the clinical trials in the NZ hospital system and Prof. Sir John Scott continues in his role on Protemix’s Scientific Advisory Board and as external invigilator of the trial programme.

In making his comments, Mr. Birnie also highlighted the great research taking place at the University of Auckland. “Our investment is an endorsement of the Government’s support to the University of Auckland providing both funding for the purchase of scientific equipment and world standard educational and research programmes.”

The strength of this venture is also reflected in the recent appointment of Keith Mansford to the Protemix Board of Directors. Keith Mansford has a long association with Protemix, as the Chairman of the company’s Scientific Advisory Board and is a previous President of Research and board member of SmithKline Beecham. He has been responsible for more than 10 significant drug discoveries and commercialisations including broad spectrum antibiotic Augmentin.

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