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Apr 1, 2009 (Vol. 29, No. 7)

Traditional Strengths Solidify Chilean Biotech Industry

South American Country Makes Name for Itself in Clinical Trials and Aquaculture

  • Accomplishments

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    The Tree Lab, a New Zealand firm that recently incorporated in Chile, is developing micropropagation methodologies for biodiesel and ornamental plants including Michelia.

    Chile already has a small biotech business sector. For example, Arturo Yudelevick cofounded GrupoBIOS with four companies. The purpose of the organization is to provide infrastructure and services for firms to share. The group also established the Science for Life Foundation to support R&D and tech transfer and to direct science and technology policy at the government level.

    Some of the more important results, he says, include the commercialization of blood bank reagents; the development of ncmtRNA oligos for cancer diagnostics; biomedical products including antigens, cytokines and antibodies; and vaccines and diagnostics tests for salmon.

    “One program we’re pushing strongly is a project for early detection of cancer,” says Yudelevich, who is also executive vp of BiosChile. Preclinical work indicated that “ncmtRNA kills cancer cells in vitro, without damaging normal cells. The study is in animal trials now at UCSF.” 

    Other notable Chilean efforts include those of Phytotox, a newly formed biotech company, which is focused on the purification of a toxin found in red tide to relax muscles. Medivation has an Alzheimer’s disease therapy in Phase III trials in Chile. The Tree Lab, incorporated in Chile earlier this year, is developing micropropagation for biodiesel and ornamental plants.

    As one of the world’s top exporters of salmon, Chile has developed a battery of PCI, ELISA, and immunofluorescent tests to detect fish pathogens, including the infective anemia virus that became a great concern last year. Chilean companies developed a vaccine for that disease, as well as treatments for Pisciricketsia salmonis and Aeromonae salmonicida, stemming considerable losses in the salmon export business.

    Centrovet, founded in 1979 as a diagnostics lab, has become a leading veterinary pharmaceutical company. It produced 65 million doses of vaccine in 2008 with no trace of cross contamination, according to David Farcas, CEO. “This is larger than the human pharmaceutical industry in Chile,” he says. Centrovet exports to 40 countries. “The country doesn’t apply barriers to the market and gives incentives to make business a reality,” he stresses.

    The firm’s accomplishments include a line of therapeutics that animals can drink because sick animals won’t eat, he explains. Centrovet has developed injectable, immersion, and oral vaccines for salmon, chicken, and swine. “We are the first lab offering immunological follow-up, so users can tell how long a vaccine lasts,” he says. 

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