Missionpharma to distribute ViroGates’ new, low-cost HIV-test next year

Danish suppliers of medicine and hospital supplies Missionpharma on July 3 this year signed a cooperation agreement with Danish biotech company ViroGates ApS to obtain the exclusive rights to distribute suPARnostic – a newly invented HIV-test which is expected to be ready on the market in 2004 – in Africa and other countries.
     The new HIV-test, invented by ViroGates founder and director Jesper Eugen-Olsen, not only has a range of technical advantages concerning the timing of treatment start, but also is very cheap – the price is only one tenth of other currently available HIV tests, which requires advanced laboratory equipment.
     This method is expected to improve the existing treatment, and will even ensure treatment to many more HIV patients in third world countries. ViroGates estimates that it could increase the number of patients who receive treatment by up to 25 percent.
     ViroGates was already looking for a distributor in the third world, when Missionpharma caught their attention as the major company for production and distribution of medicine in Africa and other countries.
     Missionpharma’s emergency kits are much used by humanitarian aid organizations.
     With about 40 million HIV patients worldwide, with most patients in third world countries, the financial perspective for the new and cheaper product is promising.
     But profit is not the only concern for neither its inventor nor the owners of ViroGates or Missionpharma. They have also the hope of bringing new and better products to less prosperous parts of the world.
     Kim Ginnerup, the manager of Missionpharma, thinks that this product “is sent from heaven”, as the goal of Missionpharma is to ensure the supply of effective and cheap medicine to third world countries.
     When it comes to HIV and AIDS medicine, it has been a great concern that there has been too much focus on the medicine itself, rather than finding the right time for treatment start.
     “If treatment is started too soon you get resistance towards the medicine, which is quite expensive. Thus it is essential to know the right time to start the treatment,” says Kim Ginnerup, who is delighted that there is now an HIV-test which does just that, without being too expensive.
     If HIV is compared to a car, driving towards a brick wall (AIDS), the amount of suPAR in the blood indicates the velocity of the car. It usually takes from 3 to 15 years before HIV patients hit the brick wall and develops AIDS, and it is essential for the treatment to know the stage of progression for each patient.
     “If the car has not yet left its garage, it’s too expensive to start, and one could say that it’s only wearing down the brakes,” says Niels Engelhard Nielsen, a consultant at the Center for Innovations and Creativity.
     “And if the treatment is started too late it has no effect. Hence the importance of a progression marker as suPAR,” he elaborates.
     The HIV-test will be produced by ViroGates, but the marketing agreement will help Missionpharma profile itself.
     “It is important to us that we are at the front line in AIDS treatment,” says Kim Ginnerup, who expects this to be good business with synergistic effect for the company’s other products.
     Although the marketing of this product will take a lot of work, it really fits in at Missionpharma, which is already a leading company in Africa with many contacts in various health ministries.
     “This makes it a lot easier to market the product. We have more than 25 years of experience in Africa,” he adds.
     ViroGates plans to launch suPARnostic in 2004 – only five years after the idea was conceived.
     In 1999, laboratory leader Jesper Eugen-Olsen from Hvidovre Hospital in Denmark discovered the possibilities of the suPAR protein (soluble urokinase receptor) as part of the treatment of HIV positive patients, and this lead to the foundation of ViroGates in 2001.
     ViroGates has been testing the suPAR-marker on 1,200 adults and 500 children with HIV through a South African daughter company, which cooperates with scientists at a Red Cross children hospital and Universities in Cape Town and Johannesburg.
     South Africa was the ideal starting point, as there are millions of HIV-infected, and there is a considerable need for inexpensive and simple methods to measure disease progression.
     “It’s business, but there’s also much ideology here. It means a lot for us to be part of something which could influence millions of people in USA, Europe and the rest of the world,” Niels Engelhard Nielsen states.
     For more information about the new HIV-test, please visit websites of ViroGates ApS <http://www.virogates.com> and Missionpharma <http://www.missionpharma.com>.

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