Getting to a BLISful state a long and winding road

By Peter Kerr 11/10/2012

Dunedin-based BLIS’s oral cavity probiotic products have “spent a long time on the runway”, as it chief executive Dr Barry Richardson described the other day.

(Briefly wearing a journalist hat, I interviewed Richardson for BusinessDesk). There’s a certain irony in the eleven year old stockmarket listed company’s current position – with its share price less than a cent.

The quirk of fate is that with 50 worldwide patents on its ‘good’ bacteria, Streptococcus salivarius, which crowds out baddies that can cause bad breath and tooth decay, BLIS is potentially on the cusp of a huge ramp up in demand from other manufacturers of products.

Part of BLIS’s strategy is to allow other manufacturers of lozenges and ice cream (among numerous products) to use their probiotics and validated health claims in their own products.

Undoubtedly shareholders have long tired of hearing that nirvana is just around the corner, but with recent United States FDA approval of safety and efficacy beyond its (to date) dietary supplement certification, BLIS’s runway looks truly set for takeoff.

Added to that is the fact that around the world other independent science teams have been further proving BLIS’s claims of its probiotics marketed as K12 and M18 do work.

All that would be fantastic for Dunedin – as the freeze-dried probiotic ingredients are all manufactured in New Zealand, and any addition to its commercial base can only be good for the city and its university.

However, this is a roundabout way of showing and saying that:

  • There’s a heck of a challenge in converting a good idea to a blazing commercial success – it takes time (and then some) and money
  • A stockmarket listing as a capital-raising exercise for a fledgling biotech company will often be an exercise in frustration and ongoing requirement to disclose, disclose, disclose
  • And lastly, and hopefully something that doesn’t come to fruition – BLIS could be ripe for takeover by a savvy investor aware of the potential it has now created

Particularly with regard to the latter possibility, a stripping out of the IP and production from BLIS would be another sad state of affairs for NZ Inc biotech.

Our country’s greatest potential increase in national wealth is adding wealth to our biological resources and raw materials – that is, doing clever things to and with biological bits (+ bytes if we can combine it with the digital side of things).

But to achieve this, we need to maintain and grow the supporting infrastructure, including the expertise and processing that BLIS has onboard.

Then, not only can BLIS people grow its own portfolio of products (and there’s more in the pipeline apparently), but some of these clever people might head off to set up other ventures. Equally, outsiders can tap into the BLIS skills in the kiwi ‘can you give me a hand’ manner.

So….hang in there BLIS. After more than a decade of trying to get your probiotic plane off the ground you might at last be ready for takeoff.

When that happens, it’ll be good for all of us.