SYDNEY, Australia - News that the small biotech company Virax Ltd. gained two U.S. patents for its gene technology caused investors to boost the company's share price by more than A$0.20 to A$1.40 (US$0.88) by the close of business on Monday.

Virax announced during the week that the company had obtained two U.S. patents covering its Co-X-Gene technology, which it is developing as a means of attacking HIV/AIDS, among other diseases.

The technology involves using a fowl pox virus to insert two genes into the genome of cells in the patient's muscle. One gene codes for an HIV antigen, to make the immune system produce T cells keyed to a highly conserved part of the HIV virus. The other codes for the cytokine human interferon gamma, which boosts T cell production.

An announcement of inconclusive but still promising trials with part of the technology last November caused Virax's share price to skyrocket from A$0.20 to almost A$1.90. After some more price swings, the share price then settled back to trade in the range of A$1.30 to A$1.40 before last week's announcement.

Human trials of the technology are expected to start in April. - Mark Lawson