Otago uni diagnostic company launched

The University of Otago-owned heart disease diagnostic company launched in Christchurch yesterday plans to commercialise the work of the university's Christchurch Heart Institute.

Upstream Medical Technologies (UMT) has attracted several high profile investors and could eventually be considered for a public listing on the New Zealand Stock Exchange, or for sale to a large multi-national medical company.

UMT is led by Professor Mark Richards and Associate Professor Chris Pemberton, of the Christchurch Heart Institute.

The pair are studying protein fragments which can be monitored for medical diagnostics relating to heart health.

UMT's 100% shareholder at present is the University of Otago's commercialisation company Otago Innovation Ltd, based at the Dunedin campus at its Centre for Innovation.

Powerhouse Ventures Ltd, which has 24 mainly individual shareholders, has invested in UMT but does not have an official shareholding as yet.

Otago Innovation chief executive David Christensen said when

contacted the shareholding status of UMT was expected to be changed this week to reflect the respective shareholdings of investors.

When asked what level of investment had been put in by Otago Innovation, Powerhouse Ventures, a loan from Callaghan Innovation and co-investor the New Zealand Venture Investment Fund, Mr Christensen declined to confirm how much had been invested, quoting a request of the investors.

Powerhouse chief executive Colin Dawson also declined to reveal the total of its phased investment.

However, Powerhouse's website states that as ''an early stage investor'' it seeks businesses to invest in which wanted to raise no more than $5million.

On the question of a future NZX listing, Mr Christensen said ''It's a possibility, but not our focus - that's a long way off.''

He also noted UMT could in the future become ''an acquisition partner of a larger company''. Prof Pemberton said in a statement one of the UMT team's key developments was the identification in blood of a class of protein fragments known as ''signal peptides''.

''These protein fragments, once identified, can be monitored for medical diagnostics relating to heart health,'' he said.

UMT had developed a world-first test to potentially speed up the diagnosis of unstable angina, a serious cardiac condition which was difficult and time-consuming for doctors and was a major area of unmet clinical diagnostics, he said.

Powerhouse Ventures' chief executive Colin Dawson said in a statement UMT was based on ground-breaking work which had widespread international implications and benefits.

''Our investment is a critical first step for this development and for UMT, a company that has many more innovations it is working on.

''This research has the potential to have a significant impact in hospitals around the world and has enormous commercial prospects,'' Mr Dawson said.

When asked what seed funding had gone into UMT's research to date, Mr Christensen said it had had a ''share'' from overall millions of dollars of multiple-organisation research funding.

Christchurch-based UMT was expected to initially have a staff of four, and Mr Dawson said the Powerhouse funding would go towards further refinement of the test and larger clinical trials.

The global market for unstable angina diagnostics has been estimated at more than $US1billion ($NZ1.47billion), Mr Dawson said.

simon.hartley@odt.co.nz

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