GLASGOW, SCOTLAND _Cruachem Ltd., a biotechnology suppliercompany, has just won the Queen's Award for Export Excellence. Thefirm, with branches in the U.S. and Japan, ranks among the world'sleading purveyors of nucleic acid synthesis reagents, said its CEO, IanWillkie.Cruachem's turnover in 1993 amounted to 4.7 million ($7 million), a38 % increase over 1992. The award reflected that 71% of its outputwas exported from Britain.Besides the honor per se, the royal recognition permits a recipient todisplay an emblem on its letterhead and other identifying objects forfive years, testifying to its export prestige. The Queen of Englandconfers the citation each year on her birthday, April 21.During a recent site visit to the Cruachem's facilities here, Willkie toldBioWorld that he foresees further market growth, based on the fact that"DNA/RNA is no longer used simply for research, but increasingly inthe direct diagnosis and treatment of viral infections and geneticdisorders."Willkie foresees that as the field, and his company, expand, Cruachemcan command a potential 50% of the U.S. market, 25% in Japan, and20% of Western Europe.Anticipating this expansion, the company "is actively exploringsources of new investment capital, both public and private," thepresident of its U.S. subsidiary, Joseph Hall, told BioWorld. The firm,based at Dulles Airport, Va., will be seeking to raise "in excess of $5million" of additional capital, Hall said, "most likely from privateinvestors." He added, "We very much see ourselves as a nucleic acidcompany, expanding from that base into related areas."Willkie said that a significant part of his company's new research anddevelopment efforts will go into potential antiviral therapy based onoligonucleotide chemistry, "beyond antisense and ribozymes."On July 1, Cruachem Inc. will begin a six-month, $75,000 researchcontract for the U.S. Department of the Army. The SBIR (SmallBusiness Innovative Research) grant is for "Transfer RNA-MediatedSynthesis of Novel Materials." Specifically, Hall told BioWorld, "theseinvolve proteins and enzymes in cell-free systems, for both militaryand civilian applications."Cruachem claims 47% of the United Kingdom market for DNA/RNAchemicals, and 15% of the U.S. market. Its major competitors, Willkiesaid, are Applied Biosystems Inc (ABI). of Foster City, Calif.,Millipore Corp. of Bedford, Mass., and Pharmacia Biotech Inc. inPiscataway, N.J.Willkie noted that Cruachem had spent two and one-half years in court,fighting a patent infringement suit lodged by ABI. "At the end of theday," he said, "we settled by taking a license from them on betterterms."
-- David N. Leff Science Editor
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