The Muppet Show

I just can’t believe it.

Even though my opinion about Benitec (ASX : BLT) and its management team is well known, and I was truly blown-away by the incredible announcement earlier this week of a pending NASDAQ IPO, I do actually want BLT to be successful. The cynical reader might find that hard to believe, but I genuinely do (no sarcasm). Frankly speaking, the Australian biotech landscape needs all the success stories it can get, I only wish it was because the offerings were a little higher quality. I am aware that Peter French has suggested to several people that I have some sort of vendetta (and that I am “unstable” … careful Peter…) but actually all I want is to see is some quality and maturity in our ASX-listed companies.

I don’t think that is too much to ask.

Do you?

Yesterday I mocked Graham Kelly with an open letter because Novogen announced yet another mouse study to further underwelm and bore the shit out of us. However I truly did not think today that I would read that BLT has dosed yet another patient. Why? Because BLT is supposed to be past the point of amateur-hour publicity stunts and borderline continuous disclosure abuse (because dosing another patient in an allowed and disclosed clinical trial is not a price-sensitive event). I will even go so far as to state that BLT’s patient-by-patient rundown of its clinical activities merely reinforces the perception that this is a company run by a bunch of neophytes, micky-mouse executives that lack the sensitivity and sophistication to understand that the impact of their messaging is actually damaging to the reputuation of the company. This kind of behavior sets inappropriate expectations with investors and patients, dramatically limits communication options if something actually does go wrong and – for a fact – it turns off pharma partners. Peter knows this because he has been told by plenty of people, including potential development partners.

Worst of all, it doesn’t actually convey anything about the success or safety of the therapeutic.

So why do it?

Well, the answer is very simple. Peter French cares far too much about what people think about BLT and he panders to the frothy, fickle, and flatulant ASX retail investor base. I am sure he sweats and frets about postings put out by all those HotCopper and Sharetrader Forum lemmings… er… experts. I am sure he will respond in a nanosecond to shareholder queries if you drop him an email. The entire media and communictions strategy of the company seems to be about volume and noise, not content and quality, and this is a company that aspires to go forth and play in the big boy sandpit of NASDAQ?

I think not… and let’s face it, trying to primp your stock price at the moment isn’t going to make any difference. The cat is out of the bag.

The stupidest thing about these “clinical update” disclosures is that all it does is serve to remind the market – constantly – how ridiculously early-stage the company is. Even really exciting companies with game-changing technology (which BLT is not) generally don’t pull in $60m on an IPO with a mere six patients dosed. Does the company not realise that by engaging in this behaviour, it is setting itself up for a failed – or at least underwhelming – IPO? Six patients. I mean SIX. You don’t even give yourself the wiggle room to generalise your stage of clinical development when you are pitching the company. Can you imagine during a whirlwind investor roadshow, sitting down with a sophisticated fund manager and have him or her ask, “So Peter, have you dosed patient #7 yet?”. I mean seriously. 

It just makes me cringe.

Overall this is behaviour that needs to change across the industry and it is redolent of the 2000-2008 ASX vintage where everyone was trying to make a buck out of their own personal brand of snake oil (though some companies like Novogen seem to have stubbornly stuck around, sort of like toenail fungus). Today, globally, biotechnology is an exciting and respected investment class, and if Australian innovation is going to stack up against the rest of the world, we need to start behaving like we deserve it. Today I am not going to be unkind to Peter French and write the kind of sarcastic and patronising ball-slap I wrote to Graham Kelly. The reason is that I actually respect Peter. He has done a remarkable job of massaging a turd into a bon-bon, and for that he deserves a modicum of admiration. Even getting to the point of of an S-1 (F-1) filing and getting a banking team on board is a fairly decent accomplishment that didn’t happen magically by itself. This is a man who is working hard for his shareholders, no doubt because he believes in his company. In fact, in my last biotech company I failed to accomplish what Peter and his team have done and so I personally appreciate how hard it is to get even this far.

Benitec, get your act together and start behaving like a grown-up company instead of a bunch of muppets. Start demonstrating to your current and prospective shareholders that you are worthy of leaving the ASX cess pool to join the NASDAQ big league on the other side of the pond.

Over and out…

27 thoughts on “The Muppet Show

  1. Might pay to take a look at Bluebird Bio, Nasdaq code BLUE, to see how well the patient by patient reporting strategy can work, for the share price at least. Not saying I necessarily agree, but on breakthrough science maybe there is a place for it?

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    • Hi Brett,

      I know BlueBird well and you make a reasonable point. However they are very different companies and I think the rare disease focus of BLUE grants them a little more latitude, don’t you? HCV is not ALD or BTM. Having said that, they get some flack too…

      I wish BLT were BLUE but it isn’t.

      Also – and I didn’t probably emphasise this enough in my post – BLUE doesn’t make forward-looking statements about enrolment duration and then completely miss the boat on a constant basis, with every press release reminding the market that they have missed their targets.

      Finally – game changing technology or not – the HCV space is incredibly congested (unlike, say, severe sickle cell anaemia) and so all BLT is really doing is reinforce that they are slow and way behind.

      Thanks for reading.

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      • Hi Aydin,

        Good point. In general, I think Brett made a fair comment. There are a few companies that seem to get away with it but usually they are bottom feeders. Peer review publication certain helps – something, incidentally, that Australian biotech companies do an awful job at.

        Thanks for reading,

        C

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  2. Let me play devils advocate here Chris. I don’t know Peter French and have never owned a share in BLT.

    You say French cares too much about what ASX retail investors think about BLT. Shouldn’t he care; because without them he doesn’t have the money to pursue his trials.

    A segment of that retail base hang out on Hot Copper – and I didn’t see one post complaining about the announcement. Overwhelmingly positive; tempered with a dose of realism that it might have little impact on the share price. Its their hobby – they like this kind of stuff.

    I read the announcement – looked fine to me. A useful update along the lines of so far so good. No ramping, no implied dodgy inference that this means that it is likely that the drug “works”. Whats the drama?

    I see questionable practice when trial results (like the recent PRR-Cvac results) are complicity ramped by companies into unsuspecting retail investors so a hedge fund can make a killing. Or when companies bodgy up a failed trial to pretend it was successful because they are so desperate (POH and its recent acne trial).

    But the share price of BLT has hardly moved. There was no nefarious purpose. Your argument is simply that standards are appalling … well yes … all grumpy old men think this. I’m one so I should know. But your too young to be one.

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    • Hi Southoz,

      I welcome the devil’s view – and contrary views on this forum are always appreciated. You make some fair points – and yes, I am well on my way to becoming a grumpy old man. Even my wife thinks so.

      Peter shouldn’t let the tail wag the dog. It’s ok to have interim data points in clinical trials for communication purposes, it is done all the time (stated up-front, and meaningful). It’s also ok to turn up at conferences and give an update on a partially enrolled study if it is just a safety study. Generally, however, the purpose of running properly staged clinical trials is to make sure you that you collect the safety data, the end-point data (if other than safety) so that you can confidently convey progress based on significant information, not merely recruitment. As per the previous comment from Brett, there are a few companies that seem to get away with it, but on the whole it is generally ridiculed.

      In the case of BLT – and I probably didn’t elaborate this as clearly as I should have – there are some specific issues:

      1) Very few companies raise $60-70m on NASDAQ with 6 patients. Therefore BLT isn’t doing themselves any great service to remind the market that they basically don’t have any data, especially at this time. Moreover, Peter’s audience is now the US institutional investor (whether some of the IPO co-managers give some retail spread or not is neither here nor there). This means lifting his game a little. HotCopper no more.

      2) This disclosure strategy simply reinforces that the company is moving at a total snails pace. The first patient was dosed at the end of May last year, so 13 months to dose the first 6 patients in a 14 patient study. If you want to set progress expectations of the market, I think a little less “granularity” is helpful in this situation, don’t you? The message that this gives a NASDAQ investor is that it is probably going to be another 13-15 months before the trial is finished, then a few months to close it out and report. That starts to push the visibility of an inflection point post-IPO into outer space as far as a US investor goes.

      3) There are NO shortage of Hepatitis C patients. Yet it took 13 months to enrol 6 patients – in a 3 site study! What does that tell you about the momentum that BLT has with this drug? Well, perhaps (speculatively) it tells you that people don’t really want to take a gene therapy, that clinicians struggle to recruit, and it may even imply that there is so much other stuff going on in this space that recruitment is tough. So is it really wise to remind your shareholders of that every couple of months? Especially when you are trying to build momentum for an IPO? No. It’s a stupid strategy.

      4) The press release is actually very flawed, verging in misleading. To make the statement that there have been “no serious drug-related events” is an incomplete statement. What is “serious” – this is not qualified relative to the therapy? To me, a serious event is like a grade 3+ neutropenia or a cardiac event. Yet there are plenty of “non-serious” adverse events that could significantly impact the marketability of a drug. Moreover, in simply “dosing” a patient, rather than waiting until the end of a monitoring period, you actually can’t robustly say whether something is “safe” or not. The way that the release is worded implies that the dose escalation is kind of “business as usual” but they don’t have the data to really state that.

      5) The biggest reason why you wait until your dose escalation is complete to make statements about safety (and remember, this is a safety study foremost) – and to keep this information extremely confidential – is because what happens if there IS an adverse event due to the drug – or, an adverse event that is serious but requires further investigation to determine if it is drug-related? Because of this drip-by-drip disclosure, BLT would be forced to disclose an AE mid-trial which would be a total disaster. The shareholder pressure would be enormous and there would be a real risk that market pressure to scrap the trial and save money would mount (unethical). The irony of this patient-by-patient disclosure is that there is no legal or regulatory (ASX-regulatory not FDA regulatory) reason for doing it, it is not a price-sensitive event. HOWEVER, the company electing to deviate from this communication protocol (lets say patient 7 is a bit questionable and needs a longer follow-up period), BLT would have no choice but to disclose premature information in order to be consistent with prior disclosure. If it DIDN’T, it would then be a breach of continuous disclosure rules in Australia AND in the US (which has a different regulatory regime) it would probably be a “breach of duty to disclose”, precisely because prior patterns of disclosure set shareholder expectations. Do you get my point?

      6) BLT has an AWFUL track record of hitting its timelines, so why even go there? Why just make life harder for yourself and open up speculation that enrolment is running behind schedule. Just as I have done in this post, I have inferred that it will be 13-15 months before the trial is done, but they might actually have the next 6 patients ready to go next week. That’s the problem, you let people peek under the bonnet of your company too much and before you know it, every punter on HotCopper is estimating your clinical timeline.

      By the way, just for clarity, I love HotCopper and I throughly enjoy the people on it. I left because I realised that certain people were just spruiking stocks and didn’t want to have a discussion, or take an interest in shareholder rights. Then when it became clear that HotCopper didn’t like me being there either, I decided it was a liability to what I wanted to accomplish.

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      • Love your entertaining and satirical blog. I agree with you regarding the blow-by-blow account of patient recruitment. I was very surprised and annoyed that they announced the 6th patient dosing. However, in hindsight, I think announcement was more about telling us that cohort 3 data will be released in Q4 this year. This was a deliberate tactic to gain as much momentum and interest as possible before the IPO (announced 2 days prior). People in general are impatient and just don’t want to invest in a company that won’t report interim results. On you point 1), Dicerna expected to IPO with $69m in January last year but upped it to $90m such was the demand. This despite never having dosed one patient. Likewise, Bluebird Bio IPOed with $116m with just 3 CCALD patients dosed. But I get your point.

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      • Dear Maxineamillion,

        I don’t have any problems with an interim data review (and announcement), just not the patient-by-patient. I partially agree with you about Dicerna/Blubird, except that they are NOT Benitec by any stretch of the imagination. Dicerna’s science is in a league of its own and is a completely new strategy for RNAi – in fact, I argue that DIcerna’s success highlights the lack of engagement in the “old fashion” approaches that Benitec uses, which is why I am skeptical that their IPO will be a success. Bluebird is also different in that a patient “treatment” is a customised end-end drug and their rare-disease focus (as opposed to HBV/HCV) – plus the stunning initial results – justified it.

        To be clear, I don’t have any problems with “tactics” but they need to have some scientific and clinical substantiation behind them, otherwise it’s just noise.

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    • Dear JH,

      I will allow your opinion because my default position on this site is that any commentary that is not blatantly abusive is allowed. Your comment is mere personal attack, so that is ok. Unlike HotCopper, you are entitled to your opinion about what I write, without expectation of a personal backlash.

      Just to clarify a few things though, so you understand my position (because in an intellectual discourse, that is what we do, we exchange viewpoints rather than lambast people):

      1) Unlike you, I have always been transparent about my identity.
      2) Unlike you, I have never personalised a comment, except where I felt that the behaviour poster was perilously close to simply “selling stock”, rather than engaging in a rational discussion based on science.
      3) Unlike you, I received quite literally hundreds of abusive and threatening emails from people who warned me about the PERSONAL risk of writing adverse commentary about certain companies. I promise not to track you down or bombard your inbox.
      4) Unlike you, I accept that an argument always has holes in it, but I believe that is no reason to crucify someone. With few notable exceptions, the only hole that people were keen to poke was my ass.
      5) Unlike you, I have no financial interest in the success or failure of these companies – other than that I would like quality companies to succeed, and disasters to fail as quickly as possible.

      I wrote less than a hundred posts, but I would like to point out my positions on the companies I commented on I made that resulted in back-lash. I realise my response to your “HotCopper-esq” barb is quite long, but I guess that’s my prerogative. If you will pardon the slightly arrogant optics, I will also give you some background on myself that helps to explain why I don’t hesitate to pass comment.

      If you want to reply, feel free (if your reply is constructive). Note that in the short 2 months or so on HotCopper, I only commented on 10 companies.

      1) CYP (13/3). In the intervening period, the company has accomplished precisely nothing. It has flip-flipped twice on its clinical position. I have yet to see any indication of significant progress other than media noise. The executive team also hinted at M&A activity and partnerships that were extremely premature, and the level of “insider knowledge” professed by certain posters left me very concerned about the motivation of those on the forum. If CYP does something before the end of the year, I promise to revise my opinion. I should note that my perspectives were written from the vantage of someone that has been part of two regenerative medicine companies and the co-PI of a CIRM grant in the field of cancer stem cells.

      2) SRX (17/3). I have been consistent in my opinion that this is a good company. I defended the $1Bn wipe-off as an ill-informed market over reaction. I should note that my perspective were written from the vantage of someone that has started 5 successful companies in the nuclear medicine space, personal experience with clinical translation and commercialisation of 7 radiopharmaceuticals (from Phase I to Phase III), operational experience in running cGMP radiopharmacies, policy experience through co-founding a radiopharmaceutical NGO and sitting on several relevant industry advisory boards over the years, and former responsibility as an executive for global clinical application strategy for the (then) largest nuclear medicine company in the world.

      3) PRR (23/3). I enjoyed the mirth around Stuart’s communication like everyone else (by the way, I like him and consider him to be a friend) but I also made it clear my position that the continued hype around CVac was unwarranted. I received over 200 abusive emails criticising me for being part of a “movement” to take an important cancer therapy away from sick patients. My views on PRR are extremely balanced considering the rot the company has historically produced in terms of public communication around CVac. Incidentally, I have practical knowledge and experience of the manufacturing challenges of a product like CVac. I also have direct knowledge and experience of the pharma domain’s viewpoint on LAG-3 as an immunology target, having led a company that was developing several mAb-based constructs targeting novel immuno-oncology targets.

      4) PXS (23/04). I actually wrote positively about PXS and still got abuse, this time for just being an idiot. Of course, when people purchased the stock in March and got an easy bump in May, many of the same people wrote to thank me for the comments I made. I am not in the business of making trading recommendations, but my call was not without controversy.

      5) ADO (01/04). I am consistent in my viewpoint on ADO, that it is a hollow-chocolate bunny and nothing more. I say that as someone that developed (and scaled up) a nanomaterial technology platform company (that failed to get financing because of the economic challenges of rolling out a new nanotechology as a COGS component of a larger system). I say that as someone with considerable experience in developing and commercialising IVD technology. I say that as someone who has licensed surface chemistry and coating technologies from ~15 universities and performed diligence on close to 100 companies for VCs/investors. I say that as someone that despises a commercially early-stage company that has no commercialisation plan and a CEO that is overpaid. ADO has a cult following of shareholders and was by far and away responsible for the lions share of abuse, including PERSONAL threats.

      6) BLT (23/04). I don’t think my position requires much further clarification. Again, I have been consistent and followed them for several years (the management team knows this). I very much understand the difficulties of this space having been involved in financing, developing and manufacturing a prostate cancer vaccine that failed in NHPs (though looked good in mice and dogs).

      7) MEB (05/05). I think, if we are all honest with each other, MEB is a company that just wont die. The 28/5 “mou” announcement (woop-de-doo) didn’t even cause a blip. I am still waiting. Incidentally, healthcare IT is something I know very well. I have personally founded and run a successful medical IT company (sold to CTI/Siemens), sat on the board of several good start-ups, including an MBO. I have also invested in several healthcare IT companies in the US,UK and China, some of which were disasters and one which accomplished an (admittedly weak) AIM listing a couple of years ago.

      8) OSL (14/05). See 2). I feel very entitled to comment on this company and I have yet to see any evidence that this is anything more than just another Martin Rogers special. However, all those shareholders that got in at 5c a couple of years ago are, of course, very much behind this company. But that’s got nothing to do with science or commercial execution.

      9) ANP (16/05). Still waiting for that “great starter deal”.

      10) ACL (17/05). Obviously a company that is sitting on the ventilator. Yet it was actually the company that “triggered” my decision to leave HotCopper because I realised that people didn’t understand what I was trying to accomplish. I received an email from a shareholder (quite pleasantly written, although direct in style) that told me all I was trying to do was “break a company that is an integral part of the Australian biotech community.” Wow.

      So that is my detailed response to your simple question. There is an old Chinese proverb – the longer the answer, the great the lie. However unlike you, I don’t see “holes” in arguments as a reason to dismiss someone’s opinion or even engage in personal abuse. I think most of my comments reflect a specific opinion, but I also think that – in general – my views are quite balanced. If at any time in my writing you feel that my views are not balanced, you may feel free to lay out your position – as many do.

      By the way, I hate Telstra too, but I don’t make it my email address. I guess that’s how we are probably different.

      Liked by 1 person

    • Yeah, I read the ‘one sided dribble’ and the responses on HC. Personally, I wouldn’t characterise endless tautologies from the hardcore adorites as being ‘found out’ .

      BTW, the worm is turning on the ADO threads. Posts increasingly reflect disillusion.

      The CEO’s lines – from “Perilously close” to “6 deals by Christmas” are starting to wear very thin, even to the fanboys.

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      • Hi Dick,

        To be honest I didn’t really mind – I understand its all fair game. I actually thought that leaving it was the easiest solution, but I guess not. It’s like a bad fart that keeps following you around. I used to get the same response as kid in the playground when I would generally prefer to walk away from a fight. AH well, I guess we never change.

        As for ADO shareholders, I feel bad for them because they have simply been seduced by a good story. It happens to the best of us.

        Thanks for reading.

        Like

  3. Pingback: Clinical Trial Communication Matters | The Long Tail

  4. You sound a bit like that guy on Sharescene, Plastic. He is always running biotechs down. Never anything good to say about them. Especially, BLT, PYC and ACL. Are you sure you aren’t him? I have followed him a bit and some of the stuff he says makes some sense.

    For example, a common theme through these biotechs are the involvement of certain people, funds and organizations.

    People like Stewart Washer, Mel Bridges, Mr. and Mrs. Maclemman, Harry Karelis, Rob Thomas, John Chiplin et. al. All have links to each other at different companies past and present. All seem to have been tied in with various hedge or VC funds at different times that were involved with these same companies. And most strikingly, as a prison is a training ground for criminals to further themselves on the outside by enhancing skills and networking, the organization that allowed these people to develop similarly is AusBiotech.

    I wonder if you are aware of this. Whether it colours your judgment in any way. Or if you are aware the industry is not viable in its current structure and a restructure is inevitable.

    I understand the catalyst for the change will be conclusion of the TPP. A binary event independent of the science’s quality which will see Au. contract R&D, milestones and royalties become as significant as iron ore.

    Supposedly, that is due around about the end of this month. Any serious deal in this space will either rejuvenate biotech or send it to its death.

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    • Nope, I am a believer. I think Australia can be a world-leading biotech/healthcare cluster, and THE place to list a public company regionally. As you can probably tell, I don’t just lambaste companies, I love the science and I want to see it succeed.

      But Australia’s publicly traded health/tech landscape is like the murky dam you might find at a remote outback farm. It’s dirty, and stinky and infested by snakes. Nobody with real money or a real product wants to swim there. Until we do the governance and scientific equivalent of putting a massive aerator and filter pump in place, and make that water look like Katherine Springs, it’s never going to get any better.

      Thanks for reading.

      Like

  5. One thing I have never quite got as a layman, if you could explain simply for me I will be indebted, what is the importance of vegf in gene silencing? And who is the local leader in this space?

    Thank you kindly.

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    • Hi “Galileo”,

      No indebtedness required. I love it when non-scientists want to understand science and, just like your namesake, everyone has the right to beat ignorance through understanding, however that may happen. I should note that although I write reasonably researched pieces, I am actually not a particularly “strong” scientist myself.

      So firstly VEGF. Very simply, VEGF a molecule (or actually a small collection of molecules) that is produced by cells when they need more oxygen. It’s kind of a like a little molecular starvation “smoke signal” or “drum beat” (heeeeeelp, I need Oxygeeeeeeen) that motivates a bunch of cells around it to start forming blood vessels, to increase the flow of oxygen and nutrients. All of our normal cellular processes use these signalling mechanisms for growing and repairing tissue.

      Some diseases, however – and cancer is one such example – involve growth or “proliferation” processes that are abnormal because the genes in those cells sending out the “drumbeats” have been damaged (mutated). Cancer cells are hungry little bastards that typically have a much higher energy consumption than normal cells, and their “signals” are like the erratic beats of a tympani player on a mixture of “Speed” and LSD. Those “mutated” signals confuse vascular formation and, as a result instead of getting nicely formed blood vessels that efficiently transport oxygen, you get these leaky, tortuous nasty tangly things that eventually form part of the really complex biological environment of a tumor. “Leaky” tumour vasculature not only (sort of) feeds the cancer cells, but makes it easier for those bad cancer cells to sneak out and spread to surrounding tissues because they are full of holes. Those leaky vessel networks also make it harder for the “good guys” – your immune system – to get in and do its job of attacking the cancer (think of a great big rabbit warren).

      VEGF has long been a popular target of so-called “anti-angiogenesis” drugs because the idea is that if you destroy that molecularly “identifiable” vessel structure – or “silence” those messed up drum beats (to your specific question on “gene silencing”) then you basically destroy the support structure for the cancer and you kill it. In practice, it hasn’t been as successful as theory because tumours have many different ways of circumventing a single-gene “silencing” because they are sneaky bastards that have been optimised by biological “evolution” to be very plastic and adaptive. This mechanism is called “VEGF Escape”. It is literally like putting your finger in one hole where water is leaking, and then have it simply spouts out of another hole somewhere else.

      Eventually, you run out of fingers and you get wet (i.e. your cancer wins, as the analogy).

      … by the way, this is why Circadian has a nice technology portfolio, they have molecules that sort of plug several holes at the same time, which in turn may give the cancer cells fewer options to find another way.

      The upshot of this little VEGF story is that VEGF is a TARGET, one of thousands that might be good for hitting with a drug. VEGF is a molecule (a signalling protein) that is controlled by a gene (genes are like the blueprint for everything that is produced in our bodies, right?) Gene silencing is when you find a way to in and shut down that dodgy gene from playing a role in a destructive biological process. As such, there is no specific role of VEGF in gene silencing, rather VEGF (or specifically mutated forms of VEGF) might be good targets for a gene silencing strategy. By the way, gene siliencing is only one way of shutting down VEGF but it is, at least theoretically, one of the more durable ways.

      Gene silencing (aka gene therapy) itself is tough. There are lots of ways of doing it which are mainly beyond the scope of this simple explanation, but the basic (common) principle is that you use some sort of a “bullet” (called a “vector”) that carries a bit of DNA into a cell that is expressing that “bad” gene and basically cut it out and replace it or rewire it somehow. You can do it with viruses that are very “efficient” at infecting cells with that bit of DNA (like Benitec does). You can do it with small nanoparticles or polymers that are able to penetrate the cell membrane (for example, StarPharma has some capabilities in that area) and you can even attach those bits of DNA to carbohydrates (basically cell food) that are chomped up by the cell and release the DNA while the cell is lying on the couch from having gorged itself (this is the strategy a US company called ISIS uses, and it is very elegant, because you can administer repeat doses over a long period of time to “maintain” silencing – more on this below).

      They all have their strengths and weaknesses. Benitec is probably Australia’s “leading” player in gene silencing, but their technology is very long in the tooth and it has a major and fundamental flaw in that it uses a virus that can really only be administered into a patient once (the second time, the immune system recognises it and basically wipes out its ability to propagate). One of the big problems of gene silencing is the so-called “100% silencing” problem. If you think about your body as the entire universe, and every cell is a celestial body (and frankly, on a nano-scale, that is not an exaggeration) then you can imagine that it is stochastically (statistically) almost impossible to infect every cell that has a bad gene. Those missed “bad” cells still continue to divide and – in the case of tumour cells – actually create their own little ‘asteroid belts’ of complex fluid flow and fluid “pressures” that actually divert external molecules away from the tumour. So in reality, fully silencing ALL your cells in the body is a very tough task.

      Hope that helps. I enjoyed writing this even if some of my analogies are a bit weak or over-simplified.

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  6. Thank you for a most erudite response. However, your words do nothing to convince me that an investment in good science is a good investment. CIR and BLT come to the fore while typing.

    Muppet imagery soon follow. Especially those at BLT. I mean, what is BLT doing buying back their own IP from Bionomics?

    The only logic that I could apply was, BLT is now American owned and they want HBV control away from the Chinese. OK that’s fine. But then, isn’t TKMR the new HBV super company? Are we now competing with TKMR for this disease or is there something else again going on top of what we are seeing? I’m thinking there might a bigger think going on. Something like a supra-company that is pan-disease. There purpose is to break the back of a pathology, hoover up all available IP then assign it to a specialist company in that disease.

    Which means BLT is probably going to be bought for pennies by this company and HBV rights will be assigned to TKMR.

    In true looney tune style, I would like to pass dialogue in a Copernican fashion by saying there are in fact two or even three chief world powers. Close inspection by some quarters may find me to be guilty of heresy on this count but if a free thinking man is allowed to think freely he will say, these powers consist of America, China and Russia. China may feel it is the Americans who are guilty of creating their ongoing market collapse. But, as another scientist once said, every action has a reaction and that came in the form of a cyber attack at UAL, NYSE and WSJ as well as other minor sites today. This on the day, the Americans bought back from the Chinese rights to HBV!

    Lets see what develops. I think some people are going to be miffed and I may find myself either in purgatory or prison.

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  7. Interesting it is to be comparing BLT’s IPO to Dicerna’s and Bluebird’s. I’m happier to compare apples with apples. That brings VLA, UNS, PRR, GTG, PBT and the best one of them all ACL to the fore. ACL was the IPO that never was. They said it was going ahead right up to the morning of listing. Then pulled it. What’s to say BLT won’t be the same?

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    • I actually don’t want people to think that I am gunning for BLT’s failure. I’ll be happy (and congratulatory) if they pull it off.

      The truth is, a dual-listing for an ASX company is mostly a charade. An ASX-listed company like Benitec doesn’t have to be NASDAQ listed to raise capital, it just has to be public (which it is) and quality (which it is not). The reality is that a NASDAQ listing process has become a cookie cutter way for cross-over/specialist hedge funds to make a tremendous amount of money.

      I give the probability of Benitec pulling it off at about 20%. However, if their analyst coverage remains at the “bottom-feeder” end of the spectrum, the stock will just languish about thereafter. I know most of the US analysts that would cover a gene therapy stock and they wouldn’t touch it with someone else’s barge pole (Maxim doesn’t count).

      Like

  8. Or there is a story and you are writing it.

    Quote from you Chris, “BLT remains a truly wild story and I consider it to be one of the “family jewels” of the ASX biotech scene. We would be lost without it, a bit like “Lobster Boy” or “Tom Thumb” at an amusement park freak show. “

    Like

    • Hopefully you are able to discern the sarcasm in these sentences. If not, I promise to work harder in the future.

      PS: Tell that loser Andante@HotCopper that I am not an “anonymous blogger”. In fact, I am not a blogger at all, I write about ASX life-sciences companies. And I will tell you one other thing, I am pretty sure that out of the two of us (Andante and I) that only one of use has ever tried to commercialise a gene therapy.

      Like

    • Yes, that’s correct. HotCopper views my site as being against their interests of supporting “shareholder rights” (apparently). So not only are the people on HotCopper uninterested in discussing the truth, but the site censors it.

      Like

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