Ten years ago, almost to the day, Benitec (OTCPK:BNIKF) from (then) Queensland, Australia acquired a small US company called Avocel, based in Sunnyvale California. Benitec's management at the time thought the acquisition would give them access to the first ddRNAi therapy that would be ready for clinical trial. So confident were they that they announced that this ddRNAi treatment for Hepatitis C (HCV) would be in clinical trial in 2005.
With this investment also came a laboratory and a number of clever scientists, including Dr Mark Kay of Stanford University.
A year later, in May 2005, Benitec announced that it had "identified a highly promising clinical candidate for its RNA interference (RNAi)-based therapeutic against the hepatitis C virus (HCV)". The company said that it was on track to start a Phase 1 trial in the later half of 2006.
Almost a year after that announcement, in April 2006, Benitec announced that it was reducing its presence in the US by cutting back 50% of its staff in order to preserve capital. It was acknowledged at the time that the cut-backs would slow the rate of progress on the HCV treatment. A month later, while running out of capital, Benitec closed its US operation.
As part of the closure arrangements, the US operation of Benitec morphed into Tacere, which became a ddRNAi licensee, and it was this company which carried on with the development of what became TT-033.
Benitec was, at that time, involved with the City of Hope in the development of a cure for HIV. This became its primary focus and the resulted in the first clinical trial of ddRNAi.
In 2008 Pfizer (NYSE:PFE) saw an opportunity and announced a partnership with Tacere for the development of TT-033. Through cooperation and after rigorous testing, the two companies realised that, at therapeutic levels, TT-033 was going to induce toxicity. TT-033 was thus refined over the "Pfizer years" and became TT-034.
Unfortunately, just when TT-034 looked destined to make it to the clinic, Pfizer decided to close down all its RANi research programs.
After being in the wilderness for twelve months or so, Tacere was re-acquired by Benitec for what could prove to be be bargain of the century.
Now, ten years on, and with cash in its coffers Benitec is re-establishing its laboratory in California. The Lab will be headed by Dr Suhy who is the lead scientist for the development of TT-034. Dr Suhy will be joined by other members of the old Tacere team who, with a lab and cash in hand, will be able to further the company's research into its other pipeline products for ailments such as Age Related Macular Degeneration.
The lab represents the future of Benitec. Through its work, new patents for new treatments will be developed. But first TT-034, which is likely to be administered to the first patient before the end of this May, will be rolled into a clinical setting almost exactly ten years after the story started. What goes around, comes around.