Benitec: Australian Biotech Find Elite Partner

11/10/2016 8:00 am EST

Focus: STOCKS

Vivian Lewis

Editor and Publisher, Global Investing

For high-risk speculators, global expert Vivian Lewis — editor of Global Investing — highlights an Australia-based development-stage biotechnology company in her portfolio of ADRs.

Benitec Biopharma (BNTC) announced a strategic engagement with an elite partner, NantVentures, which was founded by Los Angeles billionaire Dr. Patrick Soon-Shiong and serves as the private investment arm of NantWorks and California Capital.

They plan an oncology-focused R&D collaboration in which Benitec would lead clinical development and pre-clinical evaluation of its assets.

Benitecx CEO Greg West said: "NantVentures is part of a major US pioneer of novel therapeutics. This is a very significant strategic engagement for Benitec. Through this relationship Benitec will return to the clinic using its ddRNAi technology in collaboration with NantVentures. Benitec will benefit from a strong shareholder who will be supportive and knowledgeable in our technologies and our marketplace."

The strategic engagement includes an immediate placement to Nant Capital, LLC, an investment entity associated with NantVentures, of 29,305,819 fully paid ordinary BNTC shares, representing 19.99% of its existing issued capital for a post-issue holding of 16.67%.

Approval of Benitec shareholders will be sought for the issue of up to an additional 29,305,819 fully paid ordinary shares to Nant Capital.

If the issue proceeds in respect of the maximum number of shares, it would result in Nant Capital holding approximately 28.57% of the issued capital of Benitec, subject to any other shares being issued by Benitec.

The capital raised will be used for the proposed scientific collaboration between Benitec and NantWorks in clinical programs and for Benitec's existing programs.

They plan an oncology-focused R&D coop agreement under which Benitec would lead clinical development of a Phase II gene-silencing asset for a disease where the asset has already demonstrated clinical proof of concept.

If it proceeds, the partners would continue clinical development of a gene-silencing asset for the treatment of a solid tumor-based indication and the initiation of a 2nd generation ddRNAi program for treating this unnamed lead clinical indication.

Sorry about the mumbo-jumbo about what the clinical indication may be. BNTC isn't saying. The key part of this news is that BNTC's partner is Dr Patrick Soon Shiong, the South Africa-born Los Angeles surgeon of Hakka Chinese ancestry.

Dr Shiong developed two biotech companies sold to Fresenius and Celgene respectively, and developed the abraxane chemotherapy drug for treating pancreatic, lung, and breast cancer. He is a member of VP Joe Biden's blue ribbon cancer moonshot panel.

He is also the richest physician in the US, a supporter of the LA Lakers and Dodgers, and the husband of TV actress Michelle Chan. The doctor is a pledge donor to Warren Buffett's charity pool.

He adds class to our troubled Australian stock which messed up its US listing and its drug trials for hepatitis C but whose DNA-directed RNA interference technology we believe is worth testing.

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By Vivian Lewis, Editor of Global Investing

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