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GEN News Highlights : May 17, 2011

Benitec Secures A$8M to Advance DNA-Directed RNAi Platform

ddRNAi-based pipeline includes Phase I/II cancer-associated pain and drug-resistant lung cancer compounds.

Benitec says that its fully underwritten A$8 million (approximately $8.45 million) renounceable rights issue, incorporating an entitlement offer and a shortfall offer, has successfully closed while being oversubscribed by investors. The renounceable rights issue combined with the effective reinstatement of its core U.S. patent earlier this year and progress in securing European patents “enables the relaunch of Benitec,” remarks CEO Peter French, Ph.D.

U.S. patent 6,573,099, a re-examination certificate which was received by Benitec in March, provides the company with exclusive U.S. rights to DNA-directed RNAi (ddRNAi ) technology for research use and as human therapeutics. On May 4, Benitec announced the granting of a patent in Europe to which Benitec is exclusive licensee covering the broad use of ddRNAi (the patent is owned by CSIRO) as well as a notice of allowance from the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office  covering the use of a multi-ddRNAi approach for the treatment of hepatitis C.

“We are now able to actively pursue a number of programs and corporate initiatives to progress our transformational gene-silencing technology and drive the value of the company,” Dr. French adds. Net proceeds from the issue will enable the company to conduct with further R&D of its existing projects.

The company expects to advance its chronic cancer-associated pain program and drug-resistant lung cancer program into Phase I/II and move the hepatitis B program to completion of preclinical and toxicology studies. Funds will also be utilised to pursue new opportunities in the licensing and collaboration of the company’s patent estate and the termination of the funding arrangement with La Jolla Cove Investors.

Benitec received rights issue acceptances for 302,716,126 shares, with the shortfall applications from existing shareholders causing the remainder of the issue to be oversubscribed. The company offered investors four new shares for every five fully paid ordinary share held plus one new free listed option for every four new shares issued. The offer resulted in the issue of 404,565,897 new shares and 101,141,474 new listed options with an exercise price of A$0.04 (4 cents) and an expiry date of December 31, 2013. A further 100,160,982 options with the same terms will be issued to the subunderwriters of the issue.