A Little Rest

Hi there… it’s been a while. I hope you are doing fine? You’re looking great, by the way…

I took a break. Between a pile of business travel over the past few weeks*, several new ventures getting off the ground and the pending arrival of my second child, I have just been swamped. But I also needed a rest from this forum. After the last set of posts on Novogen and the Kid’s Cancer Foundation, I was frankly a cranky and irritated with ASX biopharma shenanigans. Although I did get a fair amount of supportive feedback about my critical assessment of Novogen’s Anisina program, I also got a lot of flack from trusting donors that couldn’t understand why I would want to jeopardise the development of a “promising” drug for neuroblastoma, during Children’s Cancer Month no less. My decision to post Owen Finegan’s ‘rebuttal’ unedited was apparently insufficient demonstration of my integrity.

To be honest, from a karmic vantage, the whole situation felt really awful. Here I am expecting another child in my life, and I am criticising a charity that tries to help little kids with cancer (even if they do it by investing in mediocre research with poor governance).

I felt like a schmuck.

The good news is, not much of excitement has happened where you would have really missed my scathing commentary (correct me if I am wrong). Sure, Starpharma continues to wax lyrical about AstraZeneca and Benitec is still out doing victory laps from their underwhelming NASDAQ debut. The High Court says we can’t patent genes (keeping us roughly in line with the rest of the world but still causing “angst” from Medicines Australia) and Bionomics is still cranking away with Merck (now major shareholder – an exceedingly cheap way of taking out a drug pipeline IMO). Generally, most of the underwhelming companies out there continue to underwhelm us on a daily basis.

As an aside note, I owe you an updated commentary on BNO because I have had several informed people tell me that my previous assessment of BNC210 (including its molecular identity) is incorrect. Obviously this would be less of a problem if the company had some decent published data/research.  

I have some new material coming and although I promise to be no less ruthless in my assessment of companies, I am going to try and also be a bit more positive. However, one company I will no longer be able to comment on is Brisbane-based Tissue Therapies Limited (ASX : TIS). As per the ASX announcement this morning, I have joined the company as an Executive Director. Since this will possibly be the first of several pending “conflict of interest” disclosures, I have added a COI menu.

I’m very pleased to be joining the TIS team – I have always liked the technology, even if execution hasn’t been stellar. Hopefully we can fix that in due course.


*If you are interested in a brief personal commentary on recent travels, you can find a short piece entitled “One Hundred Hours of Islam” on my personal site.

16 thoughts on “A Little Rest

  1. Congratulations on your appointment Chris.

    I think you will be a great help to TIS because you have an intuitive brain for whats required to get them to the next step. Way too many Australia long tail biotech Directors know very little and just think they can hire a consultant to tell them anything they don’t know.

    Which might be alright for lots of things … but not strategy related to regulatory pathways and the design of clinical trials.

    And double good luck for the safe and happy delivery of your other project!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks Southoz – I appreciate it. I am very positive about TIS and its potential. It remains to be seen whether we can bring along an already deeply punished shareholder base along with us as we re-build.

      Thanks for the “other” well-wishes.

      Like

  2. Yes,how dare you question anything with the words kids and cancer in it – that’s a very major breach of PC etiquette,and you should shamefully grovel for forgiveness and promise to support every business interest that attaches itself to those two words.
    It’s a brave new world.
    You’re doing good work,and the real (unfortunate) kids with cancer are all the better for it.
    Good luck with the new addition and new position

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Welcome back Chris – Ian Ross has departed Tissue Therapies and you’ve filled the breach – perhaps we’ll see you over at Novogen one day 😉

    Good luck with the expected little one.

    Please keep the blow torch burning on these outfits – would hate to see you become that which you and we have loathed – as they need someone to keep them on their toes and call them on BS.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I’d love to run Novogen. But only once the assets and deadwood had been stripped out. The only reasonable future for Novogen is either:

      1) A capitalised “shell” that is turned around with new assets.
      2) Return of capital to shareholders

      Every other game plane that the management team has is just BS. Just like their “scientific review”.

      Like

  4. Chris,
    I have always respected your high quality analysis and valuable insights into the ASX Biotech / Pharma sector, however this appointment seems to me like a sellout and contradicts most of your earlier arguments in relation to the incest of ASX Biopharma and poor management performance. For example you are joining TIssue Therapies which has one of the “key players” Mel Bridges as a director and a person you identified in your article dated August 1 2015 “The Incest of ASX Biopharma”. Also the performance of management has been diabolical highlighted by the EMA debacle which destroyed shareholders value. I cannot see the logic behind your decision to join this company unless you have also formed the opinion that if you can’t beat them, join them.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hi Gavin,

      I appreciate that the optics at Day 0 are a little counter-intuitive. Contrary to other’s assertions, I don’t consider myself God’s gift to biotech (indeed, made plenty of execution errors in my career). However, I do understand TIS’ ailments and I think there is a decent shot at fixing them and turning the company around. The fundamental technology is very good and differentiated. The management team, what is left after major restructuring, are high-quality and dedicated people.

      As for the Board … time will tell. As you know, corporate governance is one of my bugbears and I would NEVER join a company that I didn’t think was heading down the right path.

      Thank you for your candid and honest appraisal. I appreciate and respect you for it.

      Like

  5. Great to have you back Chris, all the best with the impending new arrival and please continue the work of “clearing the swamp”, so that meaningful bioscience work in Australia can be highlighted.
    All the best
    Steve

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Hi Chris,

    I am sorry to say but I think that the changes to the Board are no more than pure window dressing, if the company was serious about entering a new phase they would have also removed Hirst and Bridges who have been directors since 2009. They have overseen a complete destruction in shareholders wealth and here are some facts which highlight the extent as follows:
    June 2009: Market Cap $11.7m (78m fully paid ordinary shares)
    June 2015: Market Cap $17.0m (302m shares fully paid ordinary shares).

    Also in the announcement I noticed that one of your responsibilities is fundraising which I understand will require the capital raising of an additional $15m – $20m for the FDA trial or the issue of another approx. 300m – 400m shares if we allow for the requisite 20% discount on the current SP. As noted above this is a further significant dilution of existing shareholders % in the company.

    I guess you can note my disappointment at your appointment in my posts, the reason being is that I had high hopes that someone such as yourself with prodigious talent and new ideas of governance / performance for the sector would join the Board of ASX Biotech / Pharma co’s in “new entities” that could pave the way with “new business models” as per your original concept and not participate in the recycling of mediocre boards and business models such as TIS that fail to add any value to shareholders wealth and thus continue the typical cycle that undermines the sector.

    Anyway I will finish with a positive, if anyone can turn TIS around it is you and I wish you all the best.

    Like

    • Gavin, your articulated views of TIS are mildly put compared to the vitriol I have experienced from some shareholders. I am obviously in a grey area here commenting on TIS (from a regulatory vantage) and these should not be taken as forward-looking statements, but I have four comments for you:

      1) We have an AGM coming up soon that will necessarily detail changes to the company. My appointment was announced in advance of the meeting.

      2) The company has performed poorly by any metric. I was asked by major shareholders of TIS to consider getting involved in order to rebuild a company that has a completely redefined set of goals following the EMA failure. While I cannot guarantee success, I believe the fundamental technology is good, and can create shareholder value as a pharmaceutical (but not, as I have previously said, as a device).

      3) TIS’ business model going forward will not be the “same old” model and I hope, in due course, that the effect of the company’s articulated change in strategy (28/07/201 ASX disclosure) will deliver results.

      4) To indicate to shareholders that I am 100% aligned, 100% of my compensation is deferred with the majority of it “at risk”. At my insistence.

      If you are honest with yourself, TIS is not a project for the faint hearted. I am doing it because I want to show what can be done if we do things right and because I believe in the (reworked) management team.

      There are many people hoping I will fail. Thank you for not being one of them.

      Like

  7. Captain (Chris) Courageous in my opinion.
    It’s one thing to talk the talk but now to front up to walk the walk,( or plank, as it may turn out).
    Good luck and worth a spec, for me.

    Like

  8. Hi Chris,

    Thank you for taking the time to respond to my posts. I give you credit for taking on the difficult task at TIS and I also give you full marks in deferring your compensation which puts you on an equal footing with shareholders.

    Also to give you some background I am a typical “retail investor” and I have previously invested in Biotech / Pharma co’s including TIS (2014) but have had such poor results primarily due to the issues which you have raised in your posts in the “The Long Tail”. It got to the point that I no longer considered Biotech / Pharma viable or “investable” and I have instead invested in the Healthcare GICS group. However, after coming across your site approx. 3 months ago it changed my perspective and I thought that there was “the potential for a viable / investable Biotech / Pharma sector” with people such as yourself who are advocates for change and can inform and expose the practices in the sector for the benefit of the market and in particular “retail investors”.

    In closing I am a big fan of yours because your website is very valuable in the way that you can cut through the technical jargon and provide insights which are not available anywhere else in the market. I hope that with your new position/s you can still provide content on this website and continue the great work into the future and help build a framework for a long term “investable” Biotech / Pharma sector.

    Like

    • No problems. You make some very fair points so no need to get all civilised all of a sudden! (joke). It’s challenging – as you no doubt appreciate – to respond to all of your points (now) as a Director, in as far as they relate to TIS. I’m going to cease my commentary on the matter because otherwise my Board is going to beat me up!

      But in general, don’t give up on investing in healthcare just because of a few flakey companies. There are lots of human health problems we haven’t solved and the industry is ripe for change.

      Like

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