SYDNEY — Listed Australian biotech company, Circadian Technologies Ltd., has received a A$574,000 government grant to further develop a potential anti-obesity treatment adapted from the human growth hormone.

Managing director of the Melbourne-based Circadian, Leon Serry, said the treatment, initially developed at Monash University, in Melbourne, was being evaluated by two major pharmaceutical companies.

He said Circadian was investing about A$500,000 of its own money in the project so that more than A$1 million would be spent on its development.

As previously reported, a group of researchers led by Frank Ng, a professor at Monash's School of Biochemistry, has made substantial progress in controlling fat in small animal trials by using a re-engineered version of the human growth hormone. The group spent years working through the growth hormone, disabling one active site at a time and then testing the result on animals. (See BioWorld International, July 10, 1996, p. 1.)

Apart from the potential fat-control compound, Circadian's assets include a 25 percent share in Axon Industries, a medical instrument maker based in Foster City, Calif. It is also supporting a genetic research project at Columbia University.

Circadian is capitalized at A$18 million, with its shares quoted at A70 cents each. The announcement of the government grant caused a 20 per cent surge in its share price early last week, but the price returned to its pre-announcement level of A70 cents by Friday. — Mark Lawson