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The Australian Government, via the AusIndustry START grant program, has awarded Biosignal Limited, Sidney, a $1.377 million grant to develop new anti-bacterial extended wear contact lenses using its unique furanone technology.

"One of the great hurdles to extended wear of contact lenses is the potential for infections caused by bacterial colonisation of the lenses. There are currently no products on the market that address this problem," said Biosignal managing director, Michael Oredsson. "The world market for contact lenses is over US$5 billion per annum with extended wear lenses commanding a very high growth segment which is expected to soon reach US$1 billion per annum."

"Biosignal's key product development is a permanent anti-bacterial coating for contact lenses. Biosignal's furanone technology is recognised to be more advanced and closer to market than any other anti-bacterial technology in the world that does not rely on traditional bacteriocidal or growth inhibitory modes of action.

This project is conducted together with Biosignal's partner, the Institute for Eye Research (IER) in Sydney. The IER will provide lens testing and general development services to the START project.

The START project's key activities are the following animal and human contact lens trials:

* Small animal trial and human trials in the first half of 2005. These trials will primarily test safety and wearer comfort.

* Assuming satisfactory results, large-scale human efficacy trials involving approximately 250 volunteers will occur for at least six months starting in the second half of 2005.

"All existing antibiotics and biocides are either bacteriocidal or growth inhibitory. These modes of action put strong selection pressure on bacteria to generate resistance, which makes existing antibiotics ineffective. The furanone technology does not kill bacteria but disables bacteria's ability to colonise surfaces and to express toxins. The stand-out feature of Biosignal's anti-bacterial approach is side-stepping the previously intractable problem of bacterial resistance," said Oredsson.

In May, Biosignal and the Institute for Eye Research, announced successful proof-of-concept based on anti-bacterial protection of contact lenses in animal studies. Last month Biosignal announced the involvement of biomaterials specialists, the Ian Wark Research Institute, in the animal and human trial programs throughout 2005.

The technology aims to prevent eye infections to the benefit of the world's 100 million contact lens wearers.

Microbial keratitis caused by bacteria is the most serious response seen during lens wear (1 in 1000 wearers) and can lead to vision impairment and, in serious cases, to permanent vision loss. Other more prevalent but less serious conditions include contact lens associated red eye infection (about 1 in 5 wearers) and contact lens induced peripheral ulceration.

Biosignal and IER aim to have furanone-coated contact lenses on the world market from 2007.

The START grant will be paid over three years commencing 1 January 2005.

About AusIndustry START Grants

The R&D START program provides over $700 million dollars over the next four years for companies to undertake industry R&D and related activities. The objectives of R&D START are to do the following:

* Increase the number of company R&D projects with high commercial potential

* Foster innovation in Australian businesses

* Foster greater commercialization of outcomes from R&D projects

* Foster R&D projects by companies working together or working with research institutions

About Biosignal and furanone technology

Biosignal listed on the ASX in April 2004 to commercialize a novel anti-bacterial technology. The first applications are reducing risks of infection from contact lenses and treating aquaculture equipment as an effective and environmentally friendly anti-fouling.

Furanones are based on a discovery that the eastern Australian seaweed Delisea pulchra produces natural furanones that disable bacteria's ability to colonise. The fundamental problem with existing anti-bacterials, including antibiotics, is their tendency to generate bacterial resistance. Bacteria rapidly produce resistant strains when faced with strong selective pressure by killing agents or growth-inhibitory agents. Furanones lull bacteria to inaction and appear to avoid the problem of bacterial resistance.

Biosignal produces synthetic furanones effective on inanimate surfaces such as pipes, ship hulls, membranes and medical devices; and animate surfaces such as lungs, skin and teeth.

About the Institute for Eye Research:

The Institute for Eye Research is one of the elite Medical Research Institute's in Australia. Located in New South Wales, the Institute focuses exclusively on excellence in eye and vision research through investment in people, systems and innovation.

The Institute makes significant contributions to national and international eyecare research, education and business development and is involved in a wide range of vision projects, as follows:

* Management, prevention or cure of refractive errors

* Management, prevention or cure of infection and inflammation of the cornea

* Vision and eyecare education.

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Publication:Worldwide Biotech
Date:Feb 1, 2005

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