Virionyx director in USA taps investors for further capital

An American director of Virionyx, a New Zealand biopharmaceutical company testing a new anti-AIDS drug in India, has been helping raise cash for the company in the United States.

Chris Collins, one of four unpaid directors at Virionyx, is seeking more capital from the company's American investors, the Buffalo City News reported.

South Auckland-based Virionyx has poured over $40 million of investors' funds into not only its Aids drug, HRG214, but other targets such as Trithrax, an anthrax vaccine it hopes to sell to the US Government at $US5000 ($NZ9569.37) a dose.

HRG214 and Trithrax exploit the fact that goats have better immunity to some micro-organisms than humans.

Most of the money so far spent by the company has come from New Zealand investors.

According to its website more than 80 percent of the 1550 shareholders are New Zealand residents, but the US-based private investors own a stake of about 25 percent.

Mr Collins, who has a day job as Erie County's elected chief executive, is Virionyx's lead investor in the US.

He recently gathered about 20 other investors for a brunch at the Brookfield Country Club.

Virionyx said two years ago it was eyeing a United States listing, after selling a 16.8 percent stake for $US6m to American investors.

It wanted to raise a total of $US7.5 million for operational funding, to pay back $1.5 million in debt, and cover the cost of phase II trials of HRG214 -- and said it hoped to raise the additional $US1.5m from New Zealand shareholders at $1.50/share.

Mr Collins said doctors, scientists, friends and neighbours in suburban Buffalo had put their money into Virionyx at his suggestion.

Virionyx began an American joint venture, Buckler Biodefense Corp, with a Buffalo company Zeptometrix, in 2005, when the American company was headed by Mr Collins.

In addition to the anthrax vaccine, it has also been working on an emergency therapy for acute radiation-induced neutropenia, a condition which often precedes leukaemia.

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