Wilex pitches financing plan to keep R&D going for another year

Wilex (ETR:WL6) has pitched a funding plan to keep its R&D operation going for another 12 months. The aim is to round up enough money to advance an antibody-drug conjugate toward the clinic by supplementing €10 million ($10.6 million) from dievini Hopp BioTech with cash from other sources.

Wilex R&D Chief Paul Bevan

Munich, Germany-based Wilex has looked a candidate to take up residence in the biotech graveyard since a Phase III flop in 2012 wiped out its hopes for cancer therapy Rencarex. But by making deep cuts to staffing levels, handing back drugs to ex-partner UCB and flipping assets to Roche ($RHHBY), Link Health and RedHill Biopharma ($RDHL), the company has kept going through some lean years. Now, with the support of its biggest shareholder, the investment fund associated with billionaire biotech financier Dietmar Hopp, Wilex is aiming to roll the dice on an R&D project once again.

Dievini Hopp BioTech has committed €10 million, providing it can pick up shares at no more than €1.84 a piece. Wilex is also preparing rights issues to generate €2.5 million, a sum that will enable it to keep the lights on while it readies other financing initiatives. An issue of new shares is expected to bring in another €815,000 before the end of the year, beyond which Wilex has plans to raise additional cash. Further fundraising activities are pencilled into the calendar for the first half of 2016, but Wilex is yet to finalize the details.

The patchwork of fundraising initiatives is intended to give Wilex the financial firepower to move an antibody-drug conjugate toward clinical trials. Wilex is applying a technology it has dubbed ATACs, antibody targeted amanitin conjugates, to the development program. Roche bought itself a closer look at the technology one year ago in a deal worth up to €52 million. The agreement gave Roche the exclusive rights to one tumor target, but left Wilex free to investigate the use of ATACs against prostate-specific membrane antigen (PSMA).

This PSMA-ATAC prostate cancer program is now the centerpiece of Wilex's development strategy and its last, best hope of salvaging something from its once-promising in-house R&D operation. Wilex was part of the Fierce 15 class of 2005, at which time its reputation was burnished by positive Phase II data on Rencarex.

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