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Major Initiative for Biotech

Hon Jim Anderton
Minister for Economic, Industry and Regional Development
Hon Pete Hodgson
Minister of Research, Science and Technology

1 September 2003
Media statement

Major Initiative for Biotech

World-leading diabetes treatments will continue to be developed in New Zealand by Auckland biotechnology company, Protemix, which has just received a $2 million underwrite by Investment New Zealand for possible funding for Protemix from existing programmes provided by the Foundation for Research Science and Technology.

Protemix will also receive an $18 million capital injection by a New Zealand consortium headed by Birnie Capital Partners.

One of Protemix's diabetes drugs has already been fast tracked by the United States Federal Drug Administration because of its potential significance.

"I am very pleased that a collaboration between Investment New Zealand and Birnie Capital Partners has ensured that Protemix will continue its drug developments with a view to commercialising them internationally," said Economic, Industry and Regional Development Minister Jim Anderton.

Protemix has attracted significant interest from American venture capitalists for further development of its diabetes treatments. Along with the $18 million raised by Birnie Capital Partners, the Government's $2 million underwrite, is reflective of the Government’s commitment to grow the biotech industry in New Zealand.

Jim Anderton and Research, Science and Technology Minister Pete Hodgson announced today that Investment New Zealand's Strategic Investment Fund will provide a $2 million guarantee for technology assistance support. Protemix will apply to FRST under its existing programmes and criteria and any difference between the available assistance through FRST and $2 million will be underwritten by Investment New Zealand.

Protemix develops new therapies for diabetes and associated cardiovascular disease, as well as for metabolic disorders. It has a number of diabetes-related drugs under development, including one potential "blockbuster" - capable of generating annual revenue of US$750 million or more - for diabetic heart disease. The compounds were developed by Protemix’s scientific team based at the University of Auckland led by internationally-regarded New Zealand biochemist Professor Garth Cooper and diabetes physician Associate Professor John Baker.

"Protemix is an example of the world class capability of the New Zealand biotech industry," Mr Hodgson said. "Its presence in New Zealand will inevitably attract more interest from overseas investors and give confidence to other biotech players that there is a commitment to help them take their discoveries through to commercialisation.

"This deal is a milestone in the development of a New Zealand biopharmaceutical industry. "It will help New Zealand retain and recruit the pool of scientists, business people and scientific entrepreneurs it needs to participate in the global biopharmaceutical market."
EDITORS' NOTE

The Strategic Investment Fund
The Strategic Investment Fund is administered by Investment New Zealand to support significant direct investment in New Zealand which can bring tangible benefits to New Zealand. It is equally available to New Zealand and overseas businesses looking to establish or expand significant business operations in New Zealand.

Principles:
The Strategic Investment Fund will:
- complement the private sector's role
- involve partnership and co-operation between central and local government, educational and research institutions and the private sector
- co-ordinate with the activities of other government programmes
- require clear commitment from potential investors
- be in line with New Zealand's international obligations
- clearly demonstrate sufficient cost benefits to be worthwhile in the short and long-term, and directly and indirectly.
Criteria:
That the investment:
- involves net new investment of at least $50 million over 5 years, and/or able to create 200 new jobs in 5 years
- would not occur in New Zealand without support from the Fund
- complements New Zealand's areas of competitive advantage
- has no negative competitive consequences domestically
- would involve a high level of clear spillover benefits.

Protemix:
Protemix is a biopharmaceutical company co-founded by Dr Garth Cooper and Dr John Baker, which is involved in the discovery and development of new medicines for diabetes and heart diseases.

WEBSITES

Protemix - www.protemix.co.nz
Investment New Zealand - www.investnewzealand.govt.nz
Technology New Zealand - www.technz.co.nz

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