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Research SARS Dengue Fever West Nile Virus Anthrax

Research Collaboration For SARS, Dengue Fever, West Nile Virus, Anthrax

New Zealand biopharmaceutical company Virionyx working with US organisations to develop antibody based treatments

New Zealand biopharmaceutical company Virionyx is working with two United States organisations to develop antibody and antiviral treatments for Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) and other infectious agents such as Dengue Fever and West Nile Virus and against possible bio-terrorism agents such as Anthrax.

Through the National Institute of Health, the US Government has called for cooperative research for the development of vaccines, adjuvants, therapeutics and diagnostics for bio-defence and SARS.

Virionyx Chairman, Peter Sullivan, said his company, based in Mangere, Auckland, had been approached by the prestigious Hauptman-Woodward Medical Research Institute and ZeptoMetrix Corporation, a biotechnology company specialising in viral diagnostics, to join them and respond to this request by developing passive immunotherapeutic treatments.

“They sought us as partners because they recognise the value of the patented process we have developed for our late-stage AIDS immunotherapeutic, PEHRG214, which is currently in clinical trials at Harvard Medical School in the US.

“This collaboration for the development of treatments for the likes of SARS, Dengue, West Nile Virus and for Anthrax, is a project that has the potential to deliver significant humanitarian benefits at a time when governments around the world are faced with providing novel therapies to protect their citizens.

“We are honoured to be playing a part in helping to develop potential treatments.”

He said Virionyx scientific personnel led by the company’s Chief Operating Officer, Dr Arie Geursen, got underway on work with SARS and West Nile Virus earlier this month when inactivated viruses causing these diseases arrived from the US.

Dr Geursen said the dangerous nature of these viruses precluded active or live forms from being imported into New Zealand.

“ZeptoMetrix has provided us with inactivated forms of these viruses called lysates and it is these our staff are now working on.”

He said passive immunotherapeutics can be rapidly made and stockpiled for emergency treatment in people who get infected, or are poisoned and require intervention.

Virionyx will use its proprietary technology from which PEHRG214, its late-stage AIDS immunotherapeutic was designed. The process utilises goats to develop antibodies against the infection.

Goats do not get sick and die from HIV nor would they from the other infectious agents, Dr Geursen said.

“On the contrary, goats produce antibodies to fight the viruses. The original science for this was developed by Dr Frank Gelder and brought by him from the US to New Zealand because of the unique environment in this country where goats carry a very low incidence of chronic endemic diseases, especially those with potential to transfer to man.

“As we have done with our HIV therapeutic, we will purify the antibodies the goats generate and formulate these for use in humans.”

Dr Geursen said the collaboration with Zeptometrix and the Hauptman-Woodward Institute was a bringing together of the unique but complementary skills and expertise of each party and made for an “exciting scientific and business opportunity not only for Virionyx but also for New Zealand.”

“The world needs to be prepared for when SARS breaks out again. We must also effectively fight other infectious agents such as West Nile Virus and Dengue Fever and be in a state of preparedness against possible future bio-terrorism threats that might come in the form of Anthrax or smallpox, plague, tularemia or botulism.”

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