Igene Biotechnology Inc. announced that it has signed a letterof intent with Burns Philp Food Inc. of San Francisco for anexclusive technology license agreement to manufactureAstaXin, Igene's Phaffia yeast-based natural astaxanthinproduct.

Burns Philp has purchased 33,334 newly issued shares ofIgene's common stock (which trades on the Pink Sheet as IGNE)at 75 cents per share. If the Burns Philp board of directorsapproves the agreement when it meets April 7, the companywill purchase an additional 166,666 shares of IGNE at 75 cents,making the total investment worth $150,000.

As well, Burns Philp has the option to make further equityinvestments in the Columbia, Md., company, including amultimillion dollar investment in a manufacturing plant forAstaXin.

Igene had been contract-manufacturing the compound, andover the past year produced several tons, according to StephenHiu, company president.

Astaxanthin is a naturally occurring pigment required in thediet of salmonid fish to give them the pink flesh of wildsalmon. The current market for this product is close to $100million, and is being served mainly by Hoffmann La-Roche,which makes a synthetic form of the pigment.

Igene uses Pfaffia yeast -- mutated but not geneticallyengineered -- to make its astaxanthin pigment, said Hiu.

Igene received a U.S. patent in January on this process. Othercompanies working on harnessing Pfaffia for this purposeinclude Universal Foods and one or two Japanese companies,Hiu told BioWorld.

And Hawaii-based Cyanotech Corp. (NASDAQ:CYAN) announcedat the beginning of March that it has formed a joint venture,OceanColor Inc., with Aquasearch Inc. of San Diego to produceastaxanthin from microalgae. -- Jennifer Van Brunt

(c) 1997 American Health Consultants. All rights reserved.

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