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Drugs

Benitec Biopharma (BNTC) Down Under issued a 9-mo report to the end of March and it is pretty rotten. You know that the Australian startup sacked its CEO after a botch Nasdaq listing last year, and that in Feb. BNTC started to wind down its major drug trial for hepatitis C. Now we also know that is revenues fell 41% year/year in the 9 mos to A$385,000 and its losses topped A$18.5 mn. The tangible net asset value of its shares fell to 17 cents Australian from 20.16 cents as of mid-year 2015. The EPS over the same period fell to minus 13.2 Oz cents from minus 5.4 cents.

BNTC is switching its hepatitis work to the B strain because C is now over-medicated. It aims to develop a single jab treatment called BB-HB-331 currently under study in mice infected with HBV liver cells and hopes to file an investigational new drug application in H2 next year.

It also is working on age-related macular degeneration with 4D Molecular Therapeutics (of Emeryville, CA) using its ddRNAi platform (DNA directed RNA interference). It is also working in other gene therapy including chimeric antigen receipt T cells (CAR-T) to knock out and replace mutant genes in oculopharyngeal muscular dystrophy caused by a known protein, PABPNa.

It is also working on Huntington's Disease, with a Dutch licensee, uniQure biopharma targeting three genes which play a role in the fatal genetic disease.

In addition, its license, Genable Tech Ltd, won European Medicine Agency and US orphan drug designation for a ddRNA1 silencing of the RHO gene mutation causing retinitis pigmentosa, called “RhoNova”. The Dutch firm has now been acquired by Spark Therapeutics (of Philadelphia).

Lastly, BNTC is working with another US firm, Circuit Therapeutics, to develop ddRNAi for pain prevention by silencing a sodium ion channel, Nav1.7, which triggers certain nerves.

All in all the science sounds good (at least to a layperson) but the lack of a top manager and the money for research makes Benitec a troubled investment.

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