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Biotech Company To Help Find Better Medicines

New Biotech Company To Help Find Better Medicines Faster

Speeding up the development of safer, more efficient medicines is the aim of a new entrant to New Zealand's biotech scene, announced today (Tuesday October 17).

Symansis is providing researchers and pharmaceutical companies with cell signalling research tools that allow researchers to easily visualise the cell's complex wiring diagram and see where short circuits and power surges are occuring in the cell.

Such information will allow drug companies to readily understand the therapeutic and side effects of potential drugs.

The science behind Symansis has been developed by a group of leading UK and US based researchers, including then ex-pat New Zealand scientist Professor Peter Shepherd.

Since returning to the Maurice Wilkins Centre at the University of Auckland in 2004, he has been working with support of Symansis and the Foundation for Research Science and Technology to develop a wide range of antibodies that form the basis of the Signalomics system.

Professor Shepherd says "Biological tools for the pharmaceutical industry are a new area for the New Zealand biotechnology industry but one which has huge potential"

He says "There is a multi-billion dollar world wide market for drug discovery tools, yet barriers to entry and risk are lower than other forms of biotechnology. Also this type of work can easily be achieved with the scale of scientific resources available in New Zealand"

Antibody based systems, such as those developed by Symansis, are used by drug companies during research trials in the laboratory to determine whether a potential new drug has unwanted or unexpected side effects long before it gets into clinical trials.

As a research tool, it helps researchers target important molecules in a range of diseases, particularly cancer research, and identify their response to a drug.

Symansis is the only company in New Zealand developing antibodies as cell signalling drug discovery tools.

The company already offers a range of antibodies for sale worldwide into universities, pharmaceutical companies and research institutions.

These will be added to, to create a 'library' of key antibodies on one chip. John Kernohan, a Symansis board member and former CEO of UniServices, says this array of antibodies will be a big advance as it will allow researchers to measure a large number of reactions simultaneously.

He says New Zealand has a unique advantage globally in producing such antibodies. "These antibodies are produced from sheep and our highly-regarded, disease-free stock is a terrific advantage."

Symansis will be headed initially by CEO Maxine Simmons, one of the co-founders and former CEO of early biotech company ICPbio. She sees production and global sales of readily-transportable drug discovery tools from NZ as an ideal match for New Zealand's technology and academic expertise.

Funding for the business has been through current shareholders, including Professor Peter Shepherd and leading academics from four overseas universities.

The company has a strategic partnership agreement with Auckland UniServices whereby Symansis will be the development partner for UniServices in this field, and UniServices will take up a shareholding in Symansis.

Symansis will be looking to raise a further $4 million in a series of capital raising rounds over the next three years.

Notes to editors:

Symansis' Scientific Advisory Board includes:
* Professor Mike Waterfield FRS - Ludwig Institute, London
* Professor Peter Parker FRS - Cancer Research UK, London
* Professor Ken Siddle - University of Cambridge
* Professor Donny Strosberg - Scripps Institute, Florida
* Professor Peter Shepherd - University of Auckland, New Zealand
* Professor David Williams - University of Auckland, New Zealand

What is cell signaling?

* Cell signaling is part of a complex system of communication that governs basic cellular activities and coordinates cell actions.
* The ability of cells to perceive and correctly respond to their micro-environment is the basis of development, tissue repair, and immunity.
* Errors in cellular information processing are responsible for diseases such as cancer, autoimmunity, and diabetes.
* Antibodies, such as those developed by Symansis, recognise cell signalling molecules
* Understanding cell signaling can help develop more effective treatment of diseases.

ENDS


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