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PM Salutes NZ Company’s AIDS Drug Breakthrough

4 July 2002

Prime Minister Helen Clark said today that Auckland-based Virionyx Corporation’s clearance to begin multi-dose trials for the HIV-AIDS drug it has developed was an exciting breakthrough for the New Zealand biotechnology sector.

Helen Clark was speaking during a visit to the Virionyx laboratories in Penrose, Auckland, where the drug, HRG214, has been developed.

AIDS and cancer specialist Dr Bruce Dezube oversaw the new drug’s Phase I trials at Harvard Medical School, and next week he will present the results to an international AIDS conference in Barcelona.

After successful trials in 18 people with HIV/AIDS in the United States, the Food and Drug Administration has consented to multi-dose trials for HRG214.

Helen Clark today joined Virionyx executives in announcing a $3 million project to expand the Penrose laboratories and pilot plant so that further development – and eventually production – of the new drug can be carried out.

“This exciting development will further raise the international profile of the New Zealand biotechnology sector,” Helen Clark said.

“I congratulate Dr Frank Gelder, the inventor and the foundation director of Virionyx, and Virionyx staff for giving New Zealand scientists the opportunity to be involved in a leading edge biotechnology venture.

“The government has embraced the concept of innovation as central to securing our nation’s future success with a mix of policies to support innovative New Zealanders.

“Both the Investment New Zealand and Technology New Zealand state agencies have been working with Virionyx, enabling the company to build networks with potential investment and pharmaceutical partners.

“I am also delighted that three talented young New Zealand scientists will be coming home from the Westmead Millennium Institute in Sydney to work in the new laboratory facilities in Auckland, after undertaking studies assisted by two government grants to Virionyx.

“It is important that we support ventures that can help New Zealand rebrand itself as a high-tech, high-value, smart and creative country.

“I commend the collaborative approach that Virionyx has taken with other leading researchers and institutions, including the Harvard Medical School, as being interconnected with the wider world is critical to success in the global economy.

“This is the way of the future as we seek to build a more innovative nation,” Helen Clark said.

Ends

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