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Biotech firm takes technology award

Jean-Pierre Rosat (left) of Apoxis accepts the winner’s trophy from Johannes Kaufmann of the Commission for Technology and Innovation. Swiss Technology Award

A biotech company from Lausanne has won this year’s Swiss Technology Award for developing a drug which targets and kills cancer cells.

This content was published on February 20, 2004 - 13:58

Apoxis - which hopes to begin clinical trials within a year - has developed a molecule which sends a signal to cancer cells to destroy themselves.

Initial studies are limited to ovarian cancers and forms of the disease caused by asbestos - but the technology is potentially applicable to other types of tumour.

“Every cell is programmed to die at one time or another,” Jean-Pierre Rosat, the chief executive of Apoxis, told swissinfo.

“Some of this mechanism can be disrupted - for example in cancer or autoimmune disease - and what we are trying to do is recover this mechanism and give the signal to a tumour cell that it shouldn’t be here and that it should kill itself.”

In the pipeline

Other molecules developed by Apoxis have inhibited cell death in animals and have potential applications in many autoimmune disorders.

The company currently has a pipeline of nine drug candidates in different stages of development.

“If you can put the people and the technology under the spotlight with such a prize it is great,” commented Rosat, when asked about the importance of the award.

“It brings visibility. It is definitely a marketing tool. It is also a great thing for your ego because that means that the work you are doing is recognised.”

Other finalists included Contraves Space from Zurich – recognised for its new laser data link between satellites - and Riri from Mendrisio in canton Ticino, which was commended for its wind and waterproof resistant zippers used by the successful Alinghi sailing team in last year’s America’s Cup.

Riri’s zippers are resistant to water, wind and UV rays at temperatures ranging from minus 40 to plus 70 degrees Celsius.

Eye for an eye

Other companies shortlisted for the award include Sensimed of Lausanne, which has developed a contact lens which can continually monitor glaucoma patients by measuring pressure in the eye.

Glaucoma, which is estimated to affect 70 million people worldwide, can damage the eye’s optic nerve and lead to patchy loss of vision or blindness.

There is currently no cure for glaucoma; however, with early detection and treatment the progress of the condition can be slowed down.

Meanwhile, Degradable Solutions, a spin-off company of the Federal Institute of Technology in Zurich, has developed a new biomaterial for bone regeneration.

This material enables dentists and surgeons to prepare custom-made biodegradable implants which fit the bone defects to be treated.

swissinfo, Vincent Landon

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