Former opal miner Benitec opens for biotech business

By Melissa Trudinger
Friday, 02 August, 2002

Queensland company Benitec (ASX: BLT) has finally begun trading on the Australian Stock Exchange after completing a backdoor listing through Queensland Opals.

Benitec CEO John McKinley said the company now needed to focus on commercialising the RNA interference gene silencing applications that were the basis of its technology platform.

"There are two steps. One is commercialisation as an overriding general principle. The other is adaptation of the technology as a toolkit for our customers," he said.

McKinley said that the first priority of the company would be to build its management team to access key international experience to help drive the company forward.

"As we bring more people into the organisation with the right experience, that will help us to commercialise," he explained.

According to McKinley, Benitec has already picked up considerable interest in licensing the technology from overseas, following the company's attendance at the Bio 2002 conference.

"It's a fantastic technology, with many applications. It's vital that we choose the right partners," he said. "We don't want to be a pharmaceutical company. We want to be the dominant provider of this technology. Licensing will principally come through the commercialisation phase."

The company plans to focus on the human and animal applications of the gene silencing technology, rather than plant applications, although the IP owned by the company covers all three applications.

According to McKinley, that was primarily due to the small size of the company at present. "We want to focus on what we can work with," he said.

"We're very much customer focused, customer oriented. There's no point in having a technology if it is not implemented."

Benitec has a strong patent position with several patent applications pending in 18 countries, said McKinley, with one patent granted in Australia and another in South Africa for the human and animal applications of gene silencing.

"We wish to become the dominant people in this area. It's one of the most important issues along with commercialisation," he explained.

McKinley said that he believed Benitec would be one of the most exciting stocks in Australia.

At the time of writing, Benitec was trading at 36 cents.

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