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PharmAust Points The Bone At Cancer

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There are plenty of cases of human drugs being repurposed for veterinary use, but not so much the other way around. That makes PharmAust different to other early stage drug developers as it targets cancer treatments for both people and their four-legged friends.

At the heart of PharmAust is a drug called Monepantel (MPL), which has been used for eons as an anti-parasitic sheep drench.

Marketed by Eli Lilly’s animal health arm Elanco as Zolvix, the compound is nearing the end of its patent life and is being used less because of increased resistance.

Serendipitously local clinical oncologist and part-time sheep farmer Professor David Morris fiddled with the drug in the lab and stumped on its anti-cancer properties.

Enter PharmAust, which carried out an early (phase one) on dogs afflicted with lymphoma, the most common canine cancer.

Of the four dogs treated, three recorded tumour regression of between 2% and 19% (an average shrinkage of 11%). Unlike mice, the standard lab guinea pigs, dogs are closer related to human physiology.

A subsequent human study of at the Royal Adelaide Hospital established a reduction in cancer markers. Of the eight patients who started, two discontinued because of the foul taste and two pulled out for other reasons.

We stress it’s very early days.

In seeking to repurpose and reformulate Monepantel, PharmAust hope to overcome a key detriment. In the words of CEO Richard Hopkins: “it tastes like floor polish”.

It’s been ok to deliver it down the throat of sheep via tubes, but for dogs and humans the vile taste has created compliance problems.

Under its deal with Eli Lilly’s animal health arm Elanco, Elanco has the right to negotiate to buy the animal rights after the trail data has clearly showed data regression.

As with Anatara and its deal, a wad of cash awaits if a deal is struck and these funds would be used for human health studies.

PharmAust is now canvassing vet consultancies willing to participate in further trials using the reformulated version.

PharmAust has a $2.6m cash balance which sounds light on, but its contract synthetic drug-manufacturing arm Epichem delivered just over $3m of revenues in the 2016-17 year.

Naturally, the potential human market is bigger than the canine market. But the animal health side could be a howling success given the willingness of owners in affluent markets to keep their mutts alive.

View More Articles By Tim Boreham

The New Criterion is authored by Tim Boreham.

Many readers will remember Boreham as author of the Criterion column in The Australian newspaper, for well over a decade. He also has more than three decades' experience of business reporting across three major publications.

Tim Boreham has now joined Independent Investment Research and is proud to present The New Criterion, which will honour the style and purpose of the old column. These were based on covering largely ignored small to mid cap stocks in an accessible and entertaining manner for both retail and professional investors.

Disclaimer: The author nor Independent Investment Research have received a fee or any kind of inducement for this article. The New Criterion is not intended as specific investment advice and readers should contact a licensed financial adviser.



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