Narhex Life Sciences Limited (ASX: NLS) is an Australian biotechnology company based in Melbourne. Its principal focus is to develop and commercialize its anti-HIV protease inhibitor DG17. DG17 is the water-soluble prodrug of the active anti-HIV drug DG35. When DG17 is administered to animals or humans it is absorbed and then rapidly and completely converted to DG35, which exerts its anti-HIV activity in blood and tissues.
The human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) makes a protease enzyme which is unique to the virus. This enzyme cuts specific HIV proteins into small, functional fragments. DG35 inhibits the activity of the HIV protease, which is essential for this virus to replicate. DG35 has no activity against human proteases and in human and animal trials to date has not shown any significant toxicity.
Narhex Life Sciences intends to develop DG17 for regulatory approval in OECD countries, specifically the European Union, USA, Canada, Japan and Australia/New Zealand. In addition, Narhex will develop DG17 for use in countries with developing economies, many of which have rapidly expanding HIV epidemics. We have already established a dialogue with Chinese companies interested in establishing a joint venture to develop DG17 for the Chinese market, and it is our intention to conclude this arrangement as soon as possible, while seeking similar arrangements in other developing countries.
There are currently 10 protease inhibitors approved for use in OECD countries. Although this represents significant competition for DG17, Narhex believes that the drug may offer some advantages over existing protease inhibitors. If after extensive clinical testing DG17 is proven to be only equivalent to existing protease inhibitors, management is still confident that DG17 will still achieve significant market share.
Narhex has granted patents for DG17 and DG35 in all relevant jurisdictions, and these patents expire between 2013 and 2014.
In April 2006 Narhex purchased key assets of the Swedish biotech company, Cavidi Tech AB, and re-formed the company at its original site in Uppsala as Cavidi AB. Cavidi has developed, manufactures and sells two assay kits used in the management of HIV-infected patients. ExaVir® Load measures the amount of HIV in blood ("HIV viral load"), a test which is essential for managing HIV-infected patients, especially those on therapy. ExaVir® Drug assesses whether a patient's strain of HIV is susceptible to anti-HIV drugs. The advantages of the Cavidi ExaVir® assays is that they are relatively easy to use, require only inexpensive, robust equipment which is suitable for developing country environments, and are significantly less expensive that the automated assays used in the Western world.
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