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Export Award: Epichem

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The 48th Australian Export Awards were co-presented by the Austrade and the Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry (ACCI). The 12 category winners earned more than $3.5 billion in export sales during the 2009/10 financial year and employed nearly 13,000 people, according to Minister for Trade Dr Craig Emerson, with SMEs punching well above their weight in the representation.

Small Business Award: Epichem

With the slogan ‘Molecules made to order’ Epichem delivers drug discovery services to the pharmaceutical sector, engineering medicinal and synthetic compounds and conducting research on a contract basis. The Western Australian company runs two laboratories in Perth and Melbourne and has clients in 18 countries across the Americas and Europe, as well as South Africa and India. The company provides contract research in synthetic and medicinal chemistry for new and improved pharmaceuticals, veterinary drugs and agrochemicals; design and synthesis of analogue libraries (artificially engineered chemical compounds); custom synthesis of both known and innovative chemical compounds; isolation, purification and analysis of unknown compounds and organic products; synthesis of impurities, degradants and metabolites of pharmaceuticals and agrochemicals as well as consultancy and project management services. Being based in Australia means Epichem can provide competitive rates for its services compared to the US, for example, and has developed a business model that offsets the risky nature of the enterprise by funding its operations from its products and fee-for-service work. Since starting up in 2004 Epichem has generated its own intellectual property, which is now entering the commercialisation phase with options and licensing negotiations currently under way. It is also involved with a major global initiative generated by the Switzerland-based not-for-profit organisation Drugs for Neglected Diseases initiative (DNDi) to find a cure for Chagas disease, a parasitic afflicting that affects approximately 10 million people. Working collaboratively with pharmaceutical scientists from university research units in Australia and Brazil, Epichem’s team of five chemists identified a critical ‘hit’ molecule for treating the disease, now in lab testing, according to Epichem's head of drug discovery Dr Martine Keenan. This important research breakthrough will add to the company’s growing international reputation.

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