Interim loss, but EpiTan still in the sun

By Tanya Hollis
Wednesday, 20 February, 2002

The Melbourne company behind a tanning drug has posted a $1.5 million interim loss as it pushes towards advanced human trials.

EpiTan told the market last week that the loss was the result of the $374,000 amortisation of intellectual property, writing off of research and development worth $691,000 and other operating expenses.

It said cash reserves at December 31, 2001 stood at $5.71 million.

CEO Dr Wayne Millen said the losses were within budget.

"Little biotechnology companies like us consume money and the public knows that," Millen said.

"We are judged on how much we consume in so far as it creates value adding, and on how much money we have left."

Millen said the listed company's cash reserves were adequate to take EpiTan through to Phase 2 trials of Melanotan and still have money in the bank.

He said the company had completed the dose-testing component of its Phase 1 human trial of Melanotan on 16 volunteers.

The trial, conducted at the Royal Adelaide Hospital, was designed to demonstrate blood level concentrations of the drug over a 10-day period of daily injections. Results are due in March.

Millen said the company was now awaiting approval for a Phase 2 study, which is intended to demonstrate Melanotan's ability to reduce sunburn toxicity.

"If you can tackle the precursor, it is a fairly substantial indicator that you may be able to tackle skin cancer," he said.

Melanotan is a synthetic hormone based on the naturally occurring hormone, a-MSH, which is produced in the body when sunburn occurs.

A company statement says Melanotan is more potent, more stable and 1000 times more active than its naturally occurring equivalent.

The statement says the drug enables a protective tan to develop in the absence of sunlight, with the potential to minimise subsequent sunburn.

Skin cancer is the most common of all cancers with treatment costs in Australia alone topping $500 million a year.

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