Nant Capital has made an additional Aus$5.45 million (approximately $4.1 million) investment in Sydney-based Benitec Biopharma, through a previously agreed second tranche private placement that takes Nant’s shareholding in Benitec to 28.57%. This second tranche follows on from an initial placement of 19.99% of Benitec’s share capital with Nant in October 2016 as part of an oncology-focused R&D partnership with NantWorks. In December Benitec confirmed that the collaboration would focus on a Phase II-stage DNA plasmid that produces an epidermal growth factor receptor-silencing antisense RNA (EGFR-AS) for treating head and neck squamous cell carcinoma (HNSCC). EGFR-AS has previously been evaluated in a Phase I trial in HNSCC patients with tumors that were refractory to standard anticancer therapies.
Benitec CEO Greg West commented, “In the second half of last year we said we would build the relationship with Nant through acquiring a clinical-stage asset and by securing funding from Nant. I am pleased to confirm that we have executed on both counts. Not only does the successful completion of this second tranche placement consolidate our relationship with Nant, it also provides the funding to advance our programs.”
The collaboration with NantWorks is also projected to cover the development of additional compounds discovered using Benitec’s proprietary DNA-directed RNA interference (ddRNAi) gene silencing platform against a related family of therapeutic targets underlying the core pathophysiology of HNSCC. Proceeds from the second tranche of investment by Nant Capital will be used to support both the NantWorks partnership and Benitec’s own preclicial programs.
Benitec is is leveraging its ddRNAi platform to develop treatments for diseases that include hepatitis B, age-related maceular degeneration, and oculopharyngeal muscular dystrophy. The firm has also licensed out its technology for applications including HIV/AIDS, retinitis pigmentosa, Huntington’s disease, cancer, and intractable neuropathic pain.