Genera Biosystems: Diagnostics Come of Age




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Video title: Genera Biosystems: Diagnostics Come of Age
Released on: January 27, 2009. © PharmaVentures Ltd
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In early 2008 Genera Biosystems was floated on the ASX and, despite the current economic environment, the CEO, Allen Bollands is feeling positive about the company’s future. He predicts that a ‘golden age’ for diagnostics companies is just around the corner and discusses how he intends to keep Genera Biosystems at the forefront of the industry, making the most of the company's current cash position and strong platform technology.
Genera Biosystems's Diagnostics business platform.
Fintan Walton:
Hello and welcome to PharmaVentures business review here in Melbourne Australia. On this show I have Allen Bollands who is the CEO of Genera Biosystems. Welcome to the show.
Allen Bollands:
Good morning.
Fintan Walton:
Allen Bollands, Genera Biosystems is a company based in Australia. It's a diagnostic business. Could you tell us what that diagnostic business is about in particular the platform on which the company rests it's intellectual property rights?
Allen Bollands:
Sure. Genera Biosystems was incorporated in 2002 and originally it was a SNPs business. We were performing SNPs assays mostly for academic clients. But really that business was not a profitable business. It was difficult to make any money particularly with academics. However the technology that under pinned that was ideal for developing molecular diagnostics test more broadly and in fact colleagues of our chief scientific officer who went on to work in commercial pathology came to us and said look would you mind making it a test for human papillomavirus which is our first test. And so the platform that we have is essentially it is a silica based bead platform and these beads act as a surface upon which Hybridization reactions can occur, PCR Hybridization reactions can occur and what we are able to do is to code our beads in such a way by reference to size and by reference to color and then multiplex multiple different clusters of beads together and one cluster bead detects one analyte and in that way we were able to detect up to about a 150 analytes in the same in the same reaction.
Fintan Walton:
So that allows you to do a broad based diagnostic?
Allen Bollands:
Absolutely right. So what pathology companies are looking for is ways to improve their workflow, to get more information out of each sample and the way they do that is by multiplexing different reactions together and our platform is what is we think an optimal way of it's mid range multiplexing anything between about 5 analytes and of 250 as I've already said.
Developing a super multiplexed STD-test product pipeline.
Fintan Walton:
Okay. So you mentioned human papillomavirus a work that has been going on and that is one of many tests that you've, you've been developing. So I understand that you are in the area of STD's?
Allen Bollands:
Yeah.
Fintan Walton:
Specifically could you tell us a little bit about what that's, what that works about?
Allen Bollands:
Sure well I will start of talking about the HPV-test. I mean HPV is a very contrary at the moment as you probably know because of the launch of Gardasil and cervix. So it's a very active area. What we have is a test which is a -- which enables the doctor to tell whether or not the patient -- has human papillomavirus but more specifically we are actually able to genotype There are 14 different kinds of human papillomavirus that cause cervical cancer. But they are not equally dangerous as each other. So the ability to genotype will allow the doctors to treat the more dangerous gene types more aggressively. So the human papillomavirus test is the first cap of the rank if you like. Beyond that we will be developing a super multiplexed STD-test, sexually transmitted disease test. We startup with Chlamydia, gonorrhea and our bead based assay allows us to extract even more information out of just those two simple analytes. There is a lot of tests available for those already. We are able to extract a little bit more actionable data from that sample. And then eventually we will be layering on to that Herpes simplex(1 and 2), Gardnerella, Trichomonas and various others. So that where the next big product is for us.
Updating HPV-test product through collaborations.
Fintan Walton:
So and you've setup collaborations with couple of companies? Since you want to update the product?
Allen Bollands:
Yes. Well we setup a collaboration with a couple of companies to if you like leverage the HPV-test. HPV-test is called Paptype and it will standalone as an effective product in the molecular diagnostics market. However there is a large unexploited part of the women's, broader [ph] women's health market if you like, which is women who whatever reason have elected not to participate in the PapScreen programs. Depending upon the way you looking the world it's anywhere between 15 and 25% of women haven't had a cervical screen for up to 5 years and when you consider that between 60 and 80 % of all newly diagnosed cervical cancers are in women who haven't been screened. You can see there is a clear demand for something that will bring more women into the Papscreen program. And so what we've done with our partners Polartechnics who are a Sydney based company and also Healthscope [PharmaDeals ID = 33768] which is a pathology company here in Melbourne. We've developed product CerviScreen which will allow woman essentially to self test for human papillomavirus and in the event that they have a high risk virus present in the sample then they should be going back to their GP and discussing the next options with them and our clear recommendation would be the women with a high risk positive should go have a Pap-test.So really it's a way of bringing more women into the PapScreen program.
Fintan Walton:
And then obviously the other side of the business which appears to be the main drive of the business is this -- is the STD testing?
Allen Bollands:
Well look, I wouldn't say it's necessarily the main drive but it's a way of leveraging our initial products. So our first product is the HPV-test. It makes sense to, to if you like leverage the space that you are in into other women's health sexually transmitted diseases type, type of products and so that's where we go. That's said, the platform itself is a manual to pretty much any unlike analyte you kind of look for, so in the any DNA based analyte, so another area of great interest for is in companion diagnostics. now we've already been investigating a couple of areas that, that would be of great interest which will allow, for example the physician to predict which of the family of neurological drugs is more likely to be successful.
Fintan Walton:
So what is, you are talking about Pharmacogenomics?
Allen Bollands:
Pharmacogenomics that's correct, yeah. But more broadly I think our test doesn't need a new box, so for a lab to run our test they run it on existing equipments in the lab and they use existing expertise in the lab, well we think that is it gives us a cost advantage to start but we also think that if a company is developing a companion diagnostics then we will be a good partner to go with because clearly a partner pathology laboratory doesn't want to be developing a new, it doesn't want to buy a new box just to run a specific test, the test with particular drug driven.
Fintan Walton:
Right, so you are looking for partnerships with pharmaceutical companies?
Allen Bollands:
That will be very good, yes.
Risks involved in diagnostics business.
Fintan Walton:
Right, so the other, been an Australian based biotech company focused on diagnostics is there an advantage being a diagnostic company over being a biotech company trying to develop therapeutics?
Allen Bollands:
I think that, I think it will be fair to say there isn't much in advantage. I don't think biotech's in Australia have I don't think any of them are calling advantage at the moment -- there is an opportunity for us to point a near term revenue streams. Australian investors are not particularly knowledgeable about the biotech's field generally and I think they are not comfortable with some of the long time frames and the risk involved.
Fintan Walton:
Risk involved?
Allen Bollands:
That's right, not withstanding the fact that why do u do so much so much of money.
Fintan Walton:
Right.
Allen Bollands:
It's capital intensive upfront you may came up with a dry hole and you know it has to re-cash.
Fintan Walton:
And it's a known risk as well?
Allen Bollands:
That's right, so to me it's not so the similar but that's said Australian investors aren't terribly comfortable with the space. Now with a diagnostic business because not withstanding that HPV is a little different but because generally speaking the development timelines and the regulatory time lines for diagnostics are somewhat compressed. you can't point to likely revenue streams within the foreseeable future.
Fintan Walton:
Right.
Allen Bollands:
And I think that does it does make us a little bit more attractive to people who would otherwise wouldn't look at biotechnology but of course that itself brings a whole new state of pressures and so yeah it's a tough role for us all either.
The fund raisings and approval of products.
Fintan Walton:
Well and indeed because you've also floated the company in the ASX back in may of this year. Every company at the moment is having a tough time obviously during this is we are recording this obviously in October 2008. What that mean for you, I mean is that is that making it has floating the company made it any easier for you or is it a tougher call now?
Allen Bollands:
Ah looks to me a double-edged sword, I think that floating the company is mainly for cash in the bank and we could see our program.
Fintan Walton:
Sure.
Allen Bollands:
And that's why you do it. That's said the compliance issues are not trivial for a small company both in terms of the amount of my resource that it takes up and the amount of cash it takes up in terms of you know company secretaries and lawyers and so on and so forth. so it's been a very much a double-edged sword. I think that it makes raising the next trench of cash theoretically easier.
Fintan Walton:
Yeah.
Allen Bollands:
It 's a public listed company but of course in the current world environment I think that's everybody is sort of hiding into their desks.
Fintan Walton:
But you've raised 5 million in Australian dollars this year and that gives you enough cash to bring you to bring a product for market?
Allen Bollands:
Yes, it will take us through to it will us through to middle of next year by which time we will have a product listed on the Australian registered therapeutic goods for PapType product.
Fintan Walton:
Yeah.
Allen Bollands:
We will have a European approval for our PapType and we will all be well touchwood we will also have a CerviScreen on the market certainly in Australia and all be well in Europe as well. So that will allow us to get to a certain point. We will need to wait another trench of cash. Diagnostic business certainly want this based upon the platform is a an interesting investment prospect and it's much is it's cash in peoples products itself you know we can pretty much any test we want on to the platform and it's limited only by our imagination and the resources that we can bring to bear to it.
Diversifying into other platforms and technologies.
Fintan Walton:
And clearly as you say you got this singular platform which has a broad capability, as part of your strategy is that are you looking to bring in other technologies, other platforms to compliment that or --?
Allen Bollands:
Well, yes, always although we do have another inherits platform which is it's somewhat more blue sky but in the event that it continues to do all the things that is done so far, we think that will be a very disruptive technology in the space it's called Q-Sand it's an optical biosensor and it uses a phenomenon called a Whispering Gallery Modes probably not the perfect time to go into it but it's wise to say that it's a detection system which requires non replication, no tagging of analytes, it's real time system and ultra, ultra sensitive several logged more sensitive in analyzer and at least one more sensitive in PCR's. So we think it's a very, very interesting system. But again you know we need cash to develop this. So we are looking at, at creative ways of financing that part of the business without taking focus off what for us has to be the main game
Fintan Walton:
So, so through what collaboration, joint venture?
Allen Bollands:
Absolutely, yeah collaborations joint ventures we will probably or we're looking perhaps to spin the technology act into separate company and we will retain some rights to use the technology in new in medical diagnostics for example and NewCo will have the rights in all other areas because this is a is a technology, it has application in medical diagnostics, in bioterrorism, in food sensing and so on and so forth pretty much, anything that you can bind to a capture molecule you can detect using our system.
Golden age for diagnostics companies
Fintan Walton:
Okay. so diagnostics business looks you know in the short-term a good prospect for your technology?
Allen Bollands:
I think the diagnostics business generally has been a correlation for a, to follow for a long time but I think it's coming into it's own. It's true to say that it's an extremely efficient way of spending your healthcare dollar in the US for example it accounts to something like 5 to 7% of total healthcare expenditure and yet results from diagnostics impact upon 60 to 70% of healthcare decisions. It's a very, very effective way of spending your healthcare dollar. That allied to increasing knowledge of the Human Genome and the benefits that could be conferred by pharmacogenomics and as an example I have a colleague who works in a very large pharmaceutical company, I was speaking to her couple of weeks ago, she tells me that in here company a product doesn't get into Phase II unless it has a companion diagnostic with it. So I think that -- it's conceivable that we are about to enter a golden age for diagnostics.
Fintan Walton:
Okay.
Allen Bollands:
And I hope to be right at the fore front of it.
Fintan Walton:
Okay. Well thanks a lot Allen Bollands for coming on the show and telling us all about Genera Biosystems.
Allen Bollands:
Thanks Fintan Walton.
Allen Bollands
Chief Executive Officer
Dr Allen Bollands was appointed Chief Executive Officer of Genera Biosystems Limited in November 2005. He brought to Genera substantial commercial leadership experience in the life sciences industry having held senior positions with SmithKline Beecham and Novartis in Australia, Europe and the United States. He has a particularly strong background in marketing, sales, product development and business development. He was Chief Executive of Adelaide-based Repromed, and has been an independent consultant to several other Australian biotech companies.
Genera Biosystems
Genera Biosystems Limited is an Australia-Based company that is principally engaged in the development and commercialization of a portfolio of molecular diagnostics test technologies in Australia. The Company's focus is to utilize it's platform deoxyribonucleic acid analysis technologies to exploit the lucrative molecular diagnostics market. Genera Biosystems is currently developing a suite of molecular diagnostic testing products.