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2 August, 2006 - 07:41 By Staff Reporter

Mixed fortunes for biotechs

Local biotech companies had mixed fortunes with BioProgress and Celsis handing out tonics to the market while vaccine specialist Acambis had to take a painful injection of bad news from the US.Local biotech companies had mixed fortunes with BioProgress and Celsis handing out tonics to the market while vaccine specialist Acambis had to take a painful injection of bad news from the US.

A further knockback from the US government on a new smallpox vaccine sent Acambis’ shares into freefall.

Revised demands and warnings of a lower than anticipated payback from the ultimate contract both impacted on the Cambridge company.

A resultant revenues warning prompted the freefall as Acambis lost 25.5p – almost 15 per cent – in the first couple of hours of trading.

The offending update concerned the US Government tender process relating to the Modified Vaccinia Ankara (MVA) attenuated smallpox vaccine.

The US government wants 20 million doses and Acambis originally tendered last Oct-ober; a revised pre-clinical and clinical testing requirement and a decision to extend the delivery period for usable vaccine from 24 months to 60 months from contract award means lower revenues and a payment drag – and that’s assuming Acambis wins the bidding.

Much better news from BioProgress plc, the speciality pharma and healthcare company, which has obtained a registration for HypoSalix, an artificial saliva spray, as a medical device, through Dexo SA, its French pharma division.

The registration will allow BioProgress to market and partner its product in the EU and other territories worldwide, with the knowledge that the product is effective to use and has been manufactured to the required standard.

HypoSalix is a specialist product for the treatment of xerostomia, or dry mouth. The device contains a polymer compound that, when sprayed, can act as artificial saliva.

This treatment helps combat the dry mouth symptoms that can be induced by a number of drug treatments, the most well-known of which is radiological cancer therapy.

BioProgress is targeting the product for prescription use. However, as a medical device, HypoSalix will be able to be sold over the counter.

The initial market is estimated to be in excess of £15m within the EU, where HypoSalix should be launched within the next six months, but BioProgress also plans to partner the product on a territory by territory basis throughout the rest of the world and has already started talks with potential partners in broader Europe and South East Asia.

It is also ramping up development of other products with lucrative end markets, including a mouth rinse and a mouth gel, which are targeted for registration as medical devices in Q1 2007.

Celsis chairman Jack Rowell meanwhile delivered a rousing report to shareholders at the AGM as the company – specialising in rapid detection systems, analytical services and in vitro technologies – announced growth on all fronts.

Dr Rowell said that in the year to March 31, the company had recorded double digit organic profit growth and a substantial increase in revenues.

The current financial year had started brightly and the integration of the acquired business In Vitro Technologies was set to “significantly transform the group by providing an increased product and services portfolio, as well as creating strong cross-selling opportunities in the pharmaceutical and biopharmaceutical industries.”

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