Following the merger of private drug developer Hunter Immunology Limited with Probiomics Limited, the merged entity has recommenced trading on the Australian Securities Exchange (ASX).
The business will initially continue to trade as Probiomics (ASX: PCC) and intends to rename as Bioxyne in coming weeks.
At the commencement of trading, the company had a market cap of over $33 million with 149.9 million shares.
The largest shareholder is Phillip Asset Management’s IB Australia Bioscience Fund with 31 million shares or 21 percent of the company.
Other top 10 shareholders include respected funds manager Chris Cuffe, biotechnology investor and funds manager Chris Abbott and Hunter Immunology co-founders Professor Robert Clancy and Dr Philip Comans.
In the lead up to the merger and relisting, Probiomics raised $2.4 million at a price of $0.22 cents per share post consolidation. The company has no debt and adequate cash reserves to complete the clinical trial and engage in negotiations with potential partners.
Mr David Radford former Chief Executive Officer of Hunter Immunology and now CEO of Probiomics, said “Our business is now ideally positioned with a supportive capital backing and an institutional shareholder base to take maximum advantage of both short term and long term growth opportunities.”
The Company’s main asset, originating from Hunter Immunology, is a new Australian-developed drug called HI-164OV aimed at treating chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) which includes bronchitis and emphysema.
Mr Radford said before the merger, Probiomics was a company marketing a range of probiotics experiencing limited sales. Mr Radford said Hunter Immunology decided it would make sense to take over the company with a related type business it could back itself into rather than an IPO.
“Management’s goal is the creation of solid, financially beneficial relationships with global pharmaceutical partner organizations to expedite the commercialization of our lead drug asset HI-164OV” he said.
A number of global pharmaceutical companies have expressed interest in a potential commercial partnership with the company pending the mid 2012 release of final results from a 320-patient Phase IIb clinical trial of HI-164OV.
“A positive result in June that demonstrates efficacy in patients with COPD will position our company as an attractive acquisition or as a potential partner for a number of multinational pharmaceutical companies seeking to expand their portfolios in respiratory vaccine markets,” Mr Radford said.
Mr Radford said there was no cure for COPD, but reducing hospital admissions was crucial and preventing exacerbations was the main focus of therapy worldwide. COPD therapeutics is a major target of global pharmaceutical company research.
“A reduction of at least 10 per cent in the number of patients readmitted to hospital for treatment would be considered a successful result and would have a meaningful impact on the cost of healthcare worldwide to treat COPD, which is currently estimated to cost the US healthcare system $29 billion every year in direct costs. Any therapy that can help reduce healthcare costs will be highly attractive to global pharmaceutical companies,” he said.
A small Phase IIa study in severe COPD patients showed the vaccine prevented hospitalization rates by 90 per cent while reducing the use of steroids, antibiotics and bronchodilators.
The data showed there were also large reductions in the use of corticosteroids (63 per cent) and antibiotics (72 per cent) for treating exacerbations.
Mr Radford said while there may be potential short-term upside from the release of the clinical data, the company was seeking to exploit a number of important new growth opportunities based on the same drug technology platform.
There has already been interest in the long term potential value of the Company’s proprietary mucosal immunology base drug technology.
“These commercial opportunities involve several new therapeutic applications for a number of common human infections such as asthma and middle ear infection,” he said.
He said Probiomics already had raised awareness of the new strategy and potential among the investment community and has a sympathetic shareholder base.
The new Board is led by Chairman Ian Mutton, alongside CEO David Radford, with non-executive directors Doug Wilson, William Harrison, Jeremy Curnock Cook, Glenn Crisp and Patrick Ford.
CEO David Radford was previously CEO of Australian-based developer of infection control technology Nanosonics Limited where he increased substantially the value of the company through successfully securing a global marketing and distribution deal with GE Healthcare.