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Genesis pipped by US firms in psoriasis race

By Nicholas Bryant

Friday 6th October 2000

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Biotechnology companies in the US appear poised to beat local biotech stock Genesis in the global race to find a successful treatment for psoriasis.

But that is not bad news according to Genesis' which says its drugs will be better.

Psoriasis is an inflammatory skin disorder characterised by red, scaly, thick plaques that can cause considerable discomfort.

Existing therapies for psoriasis have not been satisfactory and often have long-lasting side effects.

Genesis' research work on its PVAC vaccine for psoriasis is in the Phase Two stage and has been a major attraction bringing institutional investors such as Armstrong Jones, AXA Funds Management, BT Funds Management and Guardian Trust Funds Management to its register.

But it is understood two US companies are more advanced than Genesis in their research for treatment of psoriasis.

Last year, Massachusetts company Biogen successfully completed Phase Two clinical trials with its drug, Amevive in patients with chronic psoriasis.

Results indicated that Amevive cleared psoriasis rapidly and to a

significant degree.

The trials also showed Amevive was well-tolerated with a favourable safety profile and provided significant therapeutic effect.

The drug is expected to become available in early 2002.

Meanwhile Xoma Ltd and Genentech of California are also in Phase Three of jointly trialing their Anti-CD11a drug in psoriasis patients with preliminary results expected to be available later this year.

It also could be on the market by early 2002.

But Genesis head of clinical product development Paul Tan said Genesis' approach was both different and superior to its competitors.

Among the reasons for superiority was Genesis' vaccine-like approach allowing for lower doses, less toxicity and only twice-yearly visits to the doctor.

He said the other upcoming medicines were recombatant proteins which used antibodies to block the immune system and required several doses a week.

The race to find a suitable treatment for psoriasis is by no means

restricted to a few companies and while Biogen, Xoma and Genentech appear to be front runners, other American biotechs are also making a play for the lucrative psoriasis market.

Putting their developmental drugs through the Phase Two process, similar to Genesis, are American companies Peptide Technology, Ligand Pharmaceuticals, Immune Response, Nexell Therapeutics, Cytomed, Biocryst, QLT, Verten and Genta.

The normally two-year Phase Two trial period is commonly accepted to have only a 40% success probability of reaching the market while Phase Three has a 65% success probability. The product then moves into Phase Four, the registration phase, which involves assessment by the regulatory approval body - and an 85% success rate probability.

The psoriasis market has been calculated as being worth over $US1 billion a year, with over $US500 million spent in the US alone.

This week Genesis boss Dr Jim Watson said the PVAC vaccine had potential revenues of over $US50 million.

Genesis' stock price has reflected that potential, with high trades of $8.40 in its first two weeks on the market after it listed at $6.00 a share.

It has since returned to less-hyped levels of about $7.00.

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