Cxbladder high on NZ breakthrough

[imageDunedin-based Pacific Edge has secured a major domestic breakthrough in an agreement which could access the country's four largest health boards for its diagnostic bladder cancer test - making it available to 50% of New Zealand's adult population.

Separate contracts were signed last year for US health providers, whose services collectively cover 50 million people, with more marketing under way in Australia, and a Spanish launch scheduled for the company's mainstay Cxbladder test.

While bladder detection rates for prospective patients are near 100% from several trials, for health service providers the Cxbladder test costs are in the hundreds of dollars per patient, as opposed to historical, invasive and time-consuming tests costing up to $3000 each.

Pacific Edge's chief executive David Darling announced yesterday the signing with the Government's Health Innovation Hub (HIH), the agency covering the country's four largest district health boards; Auckland, Waitemata, Counties-Manukau and Canterbury, to promote use of Pacific Edge's non-invasive, CXbladder urine-test.

''The signing means we could be covering one in two [adults] in the country,'' Mr Darling said when contacted.

The HIH is mandated to get new health technology into the country's health boards.

''HIH's decision to now assist the adoption of Cxbladder is a strong endorsement of its ability to deliver sound clinical outcomes for patients, and significant savings in time and expense for district health boards,'' he said.

Mr Darling estimated that several hundred people on a three-month waiting list in New Zealand, requiring traditional tests for bladder cancer analysis, could be tested over just two days, using Cxbladder.

Brokers at both Forsyth Barr and Craigs Investment Partners said the collective health board agreement was ''significant'' for Pacific Edge - which has spent $46 million of shareholder funding on research and development since the early-2000s.

Craigs Investment Partners broker Chris Timms said the signing represented ''a significant step for the credibility of the company''.

Previously, Cxbladder contracts had been signed overseas, giving large numbers of potential clients access to the tests.

However, a product developed in Dunedin was now being used in New Zealand, adding to its credibility, he said.

''We tend to be more conservative in New Zealand adapting to this technology.''

Forsyth Barr broker Haley Van Leeuwen said with Pacific Edge's pending move and inclusion into the stock exchange's NZX50, she expected to see regular investment house research begin.

Following a stellar year, its share price rocketing more than 250% and trading up more than 6% yesterday to touch $1.74, Pacific Edge's market capitalisation of $553 million propels it into the NZX50.

''What the market will be looking for is what the underlying share value of Pacific Edge will be. Time will tell regarding the [profit] margins Pacific Edge are making from this deal.

''However, if it's anything compared to what they are achieving in the United States it should be attractive,'' Ms Van Leeuwen said.

Mr Darling said Cxbladder blind testing had recently been completed at the health boards of Waitemata and Canterbury, with ''outstanding results validating Cxbladder in these clinical settings''.

''It was particularly pleasing to see such great results from these blinded studies, confirming the outcome of the large clinical study published in the Journal of Urology in the United States in September 2012,'' Mr Darling said.

On the potential for further contracts, Mr Darling could only say talks were under way, but he was hopeful.

HIH chief executive Frances Guyett said Cxbladder was an ''exciting innovation'' with potential benefits for millions with bladder cancer symptoms or who needed monitoring.

''Pacific Edge is an innovative New Zealand company with demonstrated export potential. The HIH is passionate that New Zealanders should benefit from access to the same innovative health products that international markets do,'' Ms Guyett said.

simon.hartley@odt.co.nz

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