By Ruth Medd, February 2021
In this article, WOB Chair, Ruth Medd, gives a new take on the responsibilities of shareholders in enabling the success of new companies. In this instance in the highly charged world of biotech which, with the COVID pandemic threatening our world, can be seen as critical to our future.
Regular readers of my columns will be attuned to my quirky interests. In my 2020 series titled ‘The Accidental Chair – an alternate board pathway’ I wrote:
‘I have investments in two other companies that have been brought to my attention by WOB members. One is the unhelpfully named Bluechiip (ASX: BCT), which seems to be on the up after a half decade of struggle. It’s a medical devices company.
The other is Hexima, previously listed but now private. Also, in struggle / development for years. But could provide a cure for fungal nail infection – which is a big deal - if it works.’
Being a board member means you need to keep up with events and developments in many areas. So, as time has moved on, I thought I would provide a 2021 update on the previously mentioned companies:
BCT is still struggling despite its patented technology to read ID and temperature of frosted biosamples. Apparently its ‘cash runway’ is of concern (ie, its burning cash) which is often an issue with mining and biotech companies in early stages of listing – but the key is to get through it at a faster (rather than a slower) pace so that you don’t run out of cash.
Hexima has re-listed following the completion of its $3 million public offer, which was oversubscribed. The company has raised a total of $5.5 million from the public offer and a private placement completed in September 2020, securing the way forward for stage 2b trials. The CEO and company are, of course, very optimistic, that this will lay the foundations to proceed to the all-important stage 3 trials.
In early February I attended the quarterly conference call for Hexima and then followed up with the CEO, Michael Aldridge. Companies like Hexima need all the help they can get if they are to succeed. I have always taken the view that shareholders have responsibilities and can be in a position to be quite helpful to management, particularly in the case of smaller companies.
Michael explained to me the process of conducting a stage 2B trial. There are three parts; the final of which is to enrol suitable volunteers to test the product. This is all to get to stage 3!
Those of you watching the efforts to get various COVID vaccines approved will appreciate that it costs a lot of money and requires a huge effort in both data and logistics management to recruit and track 30,000 – 50,000 willing volunteers for stage 3 testing. Then there is the issue of ‘gaps’, such as the query for COVID as to whether there were sufficient over 65s in one of the trials.
Back to Hexima. Michael advises he is looking for 150 suitable male and female volunteers to participate in a new trial investigating a potential treatment for toenail fungus. You need to be:
- 18 to 70 years of age
- experiencing symptoms related to toenail fungal infection on at least one of your big toes
- in good general health
They will need to evaluate many more people than those who are chosen. So, here is the ask! Why not consider volunteering yourself or recruiting another member of your household for the trials. You will be remunerated for your time and inconvenience.
If nothing else, you will be better informed of how the world of biotech works and the difficulties faced by many innovative Australian companies in getting products to the shelves. As a shareholder and potential or current NED, these understandings are useful.
Visit toenailstudy.com.au to see if you qualify for the trial. There are sites in Perth, Brisbane, Sydney, Adelaide, Melbourne, Canberra, Auckland and Hamilton – NZ.
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