Successful Phase lla, and llb clinical trials of vapendavir sees Biota closing in on an effective treatment for the viruses causing the common cold. The targeted human rhinovirus and closely related enterovirus species are responsible for diseases ranging from mild respiratory tract infections (the common cold) to paralytic poliomyelitis, and are a major cause of hospitalisation for patients with underlying respiratory conditions such as asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and cystic fibrosis. Vapendavir binds to the virus capsid to interfere with its binding to the surface receptors of cells and/or related early steps in the infectious cycle.

Biota is the little known Melbourne based drug development company who took the first in class xanamivir from its discovery by a joint scientific team from the CSIRO and the Victorian College of Pharmacy to licensing and marketing as RELENZA by GlaxoSmithKline.

Xanamivir (RELENZA) treats and prevents influenza by inhibiting neuraminidase from facilitating viral access to cell surfaces, and from releasing newly formed virus particles from infected cells during the spread of infection. Laninamivir (INAVIR) represents Biota’s second generation of long acting neuraminidase inhibitors which requires only a single dose for treatment of influenza. It is now marketed in Japan and is under development in the US.

Along with developing a Hepatitis C antiviral and other antiinfectives, Biota’s next major development will be relocation to the US in their proposed merger with Nabi Biopharmaceuticals; achieving better value recognition and liquidity through a stronger US shareholder base.

It remains to be seen if this is another manifestation of ‘brain drain’, or an emerging opportunity for our skilled Australians in this shrinking world.

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