Aussie company in cancer vaccine race


replikun biotechAn Australian company is in a global race to produce a vaccine for diseases such as HIV and cancer.

The privately-owned company Replikun Biotech Pty Ltd has used the kunjin virus, found in mosquitoes from the wet tropics region of north Queensland, to make an injectable vaccine after processing with gene technology.

Replikun Biotech says laboratory testing has yielded promising results and the company has now reached the stage where the vaccine could be tested on monkeys, and if that is successful, on humans.

Replikun Biotech chief executive Shane Storey said the class of vaccines under development activated parts of the immune system which conventional vaccines could not kick-start.

It also acted as a management tool for diseases such as cancer and HIV, instead of using chemotherapy.

"The same product could potentially be as a prophylactic - that is a preventative vaccine," Dr Storey said.

"It could also have therapeutic activity, which would be of great benefit for people who are living with HIV."

If further funding was available, first stage clinical trials of the vaccine could begin in around 18 months' time, Dr Storey said.

But research teams in other countries were racing to produce the same result.

"I guess we are banking on the characteristics of our technology platform being superior," he said.

State Development Minister John Mickel said the government had invested $250,000 in Replikun Biotech to develop the pioneering technology but the move was expected to pay high returns in both health and revenue.

Replikun Biotech needed around $15 million to develop the vaccine to the commercial stage, Mr Mickel said.

"Obviously, they are looking for private sector backing and we think that, given the potential of these experiments, that could be forthcoming.

"When you look at the potential to combat diseases like AIDs, cancer, influenza, if commercially proven up, this puts Queensland at the cutting edge to earn many millions of dollars."

Sydney-based venture capital firm Start-Up Australia has invested another $1.9 million in Replikun Biotech.

The current world-wide market for vaccines and gene therapies has an estimated value of $22 billion.

© 2006 AAP