Firm aims to help cystic fibrosis sufferers

A New Zealand drug company is seeking $500,000 to trial an experimental cystic fibrosis treatment it plans to have produced locally.

Auckland-based Breathe Easy aims to produce Citramel, a spray designed to dissolve biofilms on the mucus which accumulates in cystic fibrosis sufferers' lungs.

It is launching a $500,000 share offer on online investment company Snowball Effect.

Chief executive and former Timaru resident Andrea Miller, said the company had already raised more than $1 million from "angel investors", including at least one South Cantabrian and through investment companies New Zealand Venture Investment Fund and Pacific Channel. Breathe Easy director Brent Ogilvie is also a director of Pacific Channel.

If successful, it will have South Canterbury company South Pacific Sera produce the treatment for use in a trial by the Christchurch Clinical Studies Trust.

The drug aims to improve sufferer's quality of life by improving the effectiveness of existing cystic fibrosis drugs.

Miller, whose daughter suffers from the disease, said a successful share offer and clinical trial could be a "good news story" for the illness, which has no known cure. The company estimates the value of the worldwide market for CF drugs at more than $1 billion.

Ogilvie said that although investing in the company carried risk, it could produce high returns for investors. He said the drug, designed by child-health researcher and fellow Breathe Easy director Emeritus Professor Bob Elliot, might be also useful for treating chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, which he said affected 320 million people.

Breathe Easy dropped trans-Tasman online investment company Equitise for its online share offer about a week ago. Miller said she believed Snowball Effect had "momentum" behind it following several successful share offers.

Equitise managing director Jonny Wilkinson did not respond to requests for comment.

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What is cystic fibrosis?

Cystic fibrosis is a genetic disease that affects about 500 New Zealanders and about 75,000 people worldwide.

Sufferers' organs, including the lungs and pancreas, may become clogged with mucus, causing shortness of breath, chronic coughing, chest infections and difficulty digesting food.

The estimated average life expectancy for a New Zealander with cystic fibrosis is in the mid-30s.



 - The Timaru Herald

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