Benchmark set for breakthrough with sea lice treatment

Benchmarks research facility in Ardtoe, ScotlandBenchmarks research facility in Ardtoe, Scotland
Benchmarks research facility in Ardtoe, Scotland
Biotech firm Benchmark Holdings, which develops vaccines to keep fish healthy rather than using antibiotics to treat disease, '‹said it delivered good organic revenue growth and improving profit'‹s '‹in its latest half year. '‹

The Sheffield-based firm'‹ sai'‹'‹d '‹the outlook is positive as the drivers for'‹ its'‹ business are stronger than ever before,'‹ '‹with'‹ '‹increasing recognition from consumers, producers and'‹ '‹regulators of the need for sustainable solutions'‹. Benchmark has high hopes for its Ectosan sea lice treatment, which is going through the last set of big commercial trials before it can get its marketing licence.The group's chief executive Malcolm Pye said: "It's going very well. All the trials have shown 100 per cent efficacy, which is unusual if not unheard of."It's almost as though the fish don't know they are being treated. It shows very low stress for fish and a very low re-infection rate."Benchmark estimates that the salmon industry loses more than $500m as a result of sea lice a year, at a time when there has been a recognised lack of effective solutions in the market which are environmentally and welfare friendly. Benchmark will sell Ectosan in combination with its purification system CleanTreat, which eliminates all medicine residues ahead of water discharge into the ocean. Once fully licenced, the group anticipates peak annual sales of up to £45m for the new treatment, with some revenues already having been booked during the trials phase."We take out all the medicine so it's clean water that's going back into the sea," said Mr Pye."It's a breakthrough for the industry. Many medicines have an environmental impact."The group expects to have another year of field trials for Ectosan and CleanTreat before they get marketing permission in the middle of 2020.The firm also has a pipeline of other new products such as animal vaccines which are reaching the final stages of development."We are excited about the potential for those. This is a period of good growth for us," said Mr Pye.Revenue rose 9 per cent to £76m in the six months to March 31, despite movements in foreign exchange rates. Using the same rates experienced in the first half of 2017, revenue increased by 17 per cent.Adjusted EBITDA increased by 91 per cent to £6.3m, driven by revenue growth in higher margin nutrition and genetics products.The group made a £3.6m reported profit for the period, up from a loss of £8.2m.

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