Any of you reading this who has ever raised money or been on the road, been involved in business development or sales, will know the feeling I am about to describe. After a very excellent day of meetings in Sydney, mostly around raising some philanthropic funds for a project I am working on, I got to the airport to catch the “last plane out of Sydney” … er… back to Melbourne. Sitting in the wasteland of the “rotunda” gates 10-13 (complete with urine-soaked seats) in the Qantas domestic terminal, that song almost always pops into my head, my tired brain’s feeble attempt to cheer me up, to inject some vigour from my youth.
I had a great day. But then I look around the terminal and all I see are tired people. Weary travellers. Road warriors. Burnt-out, overweight execs killing time before making it home after a long day, knowing that when they walk in the door their children will be long-asleep having pootled off to dreamland wondering where the hell their bedtime story went. But that’s ok, because you’re living the dream, you’re doing something worthwhile, you’re “moving the needle” and anyhow, most of the time your family just thinks you are a pain the arse anyhow.
So you momentarily perk up, get a little philosophical about another hour of your life in an airport terminal. There’s probably still a glass of red left in the bottle sitting on the kitchen counter for when you walk in the door. You realise you’re just tired, and all is well with the world.
Then you make the mistake of deciding to kill a few minutes by perusing your non-critical email and reading the Biotech Daily.
Now I am a big fan of the BD and I genuinely respect David’s contribution to our ecosystem (worth the subscription). I like the reminder of all that has happened, and the succinct summary of the day’s news, especially as I sometimes miss events of interest. I also have grown to love and appreciate the little sprinkles of sarcasm in the news headlines that David so carefully crafts. Tonight’s edition was particularly rich in subtle journalistic scatology, for example: PORK CRC TO ASSIST ANATARA DETACH PIG DIARRHOEA TRIALS
That’s pure poetry. Lyrical, even.
But then I start to digest the last couple of weeks (pardon the pun). What an underwhelming and pathetic lot of companies we have to offer as inspiration and homage to our would-be Aussie entrepreneurs with the next great bioscience idea. We’ve got Novogen’s little palace coup, sitting on the thick-end of $40m that it frankly doesn’t have the foggiest idea what to do with, let alone the balls to kill all the rubbish programs that Graham Kelly “sold in” to the business. In fact that the only thing that Novogen has been able to muster since GK left in terms of “sophisticated” communication was a couple more patent filings and a new acronym.
Outstanding stuff, guys. Bravo.
We’ve basically got a botched NASDAQ listing for Benitec, and while I am genuinely gunning for them to still bring in a few shekels, it ain’t much of an inspiration and today’s 11-odd% share price dirtnap was highly deserved. I say deserved not because Frenchy et. al. didn’t work hard, or do their best, but because they forgot that they were still an ASX-listed company. Having said that, I read all the rubbish on HotCopper today and were it not for the fact that I am permanently banned from either posting, or having links to this site posted on HotCopper*, I would have held no punches back from the handful of annoying shareholders that insist on referring to the company in the “we” context, as though they are pounding the pavement on Wall St, doing the deal – or wielding a pipette in a lab somewhere in… ah… Balmain.
As if the disasters of the past week or two weren’t enough (and don’t get me started on iSonea**) there are a whole treasure trove of little turds in tonight’s Biotech Daily. The first one to jump out at me was the headline:
ANALYTICA RAISES FURTHER $65k
Oh my goodness. Stop the press. $65k? Say it ain’t so.
Of course I understand that this is still part of a general spate of financing-related disclosures for Analytica, but still. Despite a lot of goading from readers, I have elected never to comment on this company because basically I can’t think of anything to say that isn’t mired in smut. Sure I respect that pelvic floor rehabilitation / incontinence is a very real problem. Certainly, my heart goes out to all the amazing women who have valiantly borne us our beautiful children but then struggle to run or have a little giggle without a little pee pee, but the PeriCoach product is just ridiculous. It’s the design outcome that you would expect to get when a male electrical engineer gets the idea that there might be a good business opportunity in putting some BlueTooth-enabled pressure sensors in the vagina. I’ve seen the product, it doesn’t look like as much fun as the website suggests (is that why everyone is wearing surgical masks, because they are laughing???).
What a missed opportunity to source a really decent quality motorised dildo and add some pressure sensors. It would probably sell a lot better too and at least the FDA would have enjoyed reviewing the 510(k).
ACTINOGEN XANAMEM PHASE I TRIGGERS 5m MARTIN ROGERS SHARES
I don’t have much that is pleasant to say about this one. I do respect that deal-makers get to bring in a little extra bacon and I am sure that shareholders of Actinogen sleep soundly at night, knowing that Marty is clearly on top of things. But don’t you think it’s a bit premature?
The commercial value inflection point is when a trial is concluded, reported and a decision made about whether the data is compelling for a Phase II study (or not). Especially for a CNS program. Someone who really believed in their company would have made their spiff contingent not the technical “final dosing” of a patient, but on a positive outcome of the study represented by the deal Mr. Rogers put together. An “on time and budget” clinical activity is not the value creating event, the successful end-point of the study is. And why is a non-executive chair getting compensated for an operational outcome?
With these kinds of irrelevant and meaningless incentive structures de rigueur, no wonder we have so many zombie ASX bioscience executives ploughing ahead with meaningless activities in order to hit their pre-ordained wealth creation milestones that don’t actually involve them delivering any value to shareholders whatsoever. Nice job, Martin. Real elder-statesmen stuff. I note that almost 70% of the company’s share price has been wiped off since late April, so this is truly a reward for a job well done.
PORK CRC TO ASSIST ANATARA DETACH PIG DIARRHOEA TRIALS
Speaking of swine, I always love a good Anatara update. I especially love the ones where there are lots of $ numbers flashed around but nothing of substance and nothing disclosed. I think there were two big pieces of news in this announcement. The first revelation was that I honestly didn’t realise that “Detach” wasn’t actually approved yet for all those piggies out there with the shits. The way the company talks about it, I figured if I wanted to, I could put in an order for a couple of tonnes of processed pineapple stem tomorrow. Since all kinds of bromelain-based products are considered by the TGA as safe for human consumption, and given all the great “clinical data” in animals, I didn’t figure the regulatory burden of feeding pigs processed pineapple was really a major remaining hurdle for the company.
The second piece of good news was obviously the little reminder that, despite little or no regulatory obstacles from the TGA or the FDA, that the company still continues think about wasting shareholder capital on human studies. Obviously from the appropriately muted reaction of shareholders, management is perhaps now taking their bromelain supplements via the suppository route.
So I stop reading BD (feeling a little depressed) and go back to reading my email and I see an invite to give a talk. Oh the irony. In a few weeks time I get to meet a room full of young, bright and energetic budding biotech entrepreneurs at the University of Melbourne. They want to ask me why Australia doesn’t have a more inspiring bioscience industry? They want to know why, despite all the Nature papers and poster prizes they’ve won at international conferences, none of their research seems to be of interest to potential investors? Oh, and where are the investors? Is it just Chris Nave at Brandon Capital or is there anyone else?
They want to know whether they would be better off going overseas to try and cut their teeth as biomedical entrepreneurs.
When I look at the pig de-crappers, the “super-benzopyrans” (no such thing), the re-hashing of flea-bitten molecules into another recycled public shell, meaningless executive compensation milestones … and even the odd bit of jail time, it’s hard to mount a convincing argument that our best and brightest should stay and change the system. What do you think I should tell them?
I want to hear your opinion.
And please don’t post your comments on either HotCopper or Aus Biotech forum because if you have anything critical to say, you’ll just get censored like I did.
*Cautionary note to readers, if you post a link to this site on HotCopper you will be censored because HotCopper doesn’t actually care about shareholder rights and apparently now it also has jurisdiction to deem external content as ‘defamatory’. I thought that this was the role of the courts, but apparently not.
**Unfortunately, many readers that used to pick up my posts through the Aus Biotech LinkedIn forum will have missed my post on iSonea, as well as my $5,000 competition offer, because Aus Biotech also has decided to start censoring my posts because they are not in line with their new “communications policy” which effectively eliminates any constructive or critical discourse about their member companies. Or use of the word “shit” or “turd”.