From antiviral drugs to face masks, Asia's biotechnology and
pharmaceutical companies are helping the global response to H1N1 flu.
Kong company Filligent's product seems to come at the right time. After
six years of research and development, it began selling the Biofriend
face mask two months ago.
Chief Executive Melissa
Mowbray-d'Arbela says the company has been swamped with orders from
Mexico and elsewhere in the world where the H1N1 swine flu virus has
"We logged over 200 calls per day and its increasing per
day," she said. "We got soft orders of $6 million in sales but
… our principal focus is to deal with humanitarian effort, so we are
delivering and sending to Mexico as our priority."
governments around the world activate their pandemic plans to fight
H1N1, companies in Asia such as Filligent are filling the demand for
drugs and medical essentials.
Mask allegedly kills bacteria including influenza
Unlike other masks, Filligent
says its mask kills viruses and bacteria, including influenza A, of
which swine flu is a new strain, when they touch the mask's surface.
influenza A virus seeks and binds to human cells through sialic acid
receptors which are on the outside of human cells," she explained. "What we
do is that we fool the virus that it has detected and locked on to the
human cell, a sialic acid receptor. We mimic the sialic acid and we
forced the virus into locking into our substrate where it then quickly
The idea came after Mowbray-d'Arbela developed
pneumonia in the middle of the Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome
outbreak in Hong Kong in 2003. Many people in Hong Kong wore masks for
fear of contracting the disease.
Few people in Hong Kong are
using face masks these days, even though the city reported its first
swine flu case last week. But in Mexico, where the virus has been found
most often, thousands of people are wearing masks.
Chinese company working on vaccine
in the region, biotech companies are responding to the pandemic threat.
The Chinese company Sinovac says it is ready to start working on a
vaccine for the swine flu as soon as it receives samples.
and Indian pharmaceutical companies, which make less expensive generic
anti-flu drugs, are also on standby to supply large quantities to
governments, particularly in the developing world, that do not have
stockpiles of drugs or medical supplies to deal with a flu pandemic.
Australian company Biota saw its shares rise almost 80 percent last
week in anticipation of a surge in demand for antiviral drugs. Biota
licenses the anti-flu drug Relenza to the international pharmaceutical
giant GlaxoSmithKline and collects a fraction from sales.
is the epicenter of the H1N1 flu outbreak. The virus has since been
detected in many areas including the United States, Canada, Israel, New
Zealand, South Korea, Hong Kong and Switzerland. The death toll outside
Mexico has been low, leading some experts to say the virus may be
weaker than previously thought.