Dr Boreham’s Crucible: Invion

Small Caps | May 13 2024

ASX Code: ((IVX))

Market cap: $32.1m

Shares on issue: 6,424,532,206

Chief executive officer (and executive chair): Thian Chew

Board: Mr Chew (chair), Alan Yamashita, Rob Merriel, Alistair Bennallack

Financials (December half 2023): Revenue (effectively reimbursement from RMW Cho Group) $2.2m (up 15%), loss of -$714,000 (previous deficit -$831,000)

March quarter 2024: receipts nil, operating cash outflows -$554,000, cash $1.387m, quarters of available funding: 2.5

Identifiable shareholders: RMW Cho Group/Michael Cho 14.3%, Polar Ventures (Thian Chew) 8.5%, Shengli Wang and associates 6.4%


By Tim Boreham, Editor, The New Criterion

Invion chief Thian Chew says investors often ask him why the cancer and anti-infectives house has been largely silent about the company’s progress.

“Over the last couple of years, we have been doing the essential - but, from the market’s view, very uninteresting – pre-clinical work such as safety and toxicology studies,” Mr Chew says.

“We could have made more announcements for announcements’ sake, but what’s the point if it’s not … relevant to investors?”

Indeed! Other biotechs could take a leaf out of Invion’s minimalist book and refrain from trivial disclosures. They know who they are.

In recent months, however, Invion’s news flow has intensified as the company firms up plans to conduct human cancer trials, including for non-melanoma skin cancer and ano-genital cancers (which don’t exactly inspire Pink Ribbon Day campaigns).

At the heart of Invion’s quest is Photosoft, a novel photodynamic therapy (PDT).

Before PDT was injected into the company in late 2017, Invion had many assets and a history more tortuous than a medieval dungeon

“It’s an old company with a new story,” Mr Chew says.

Shining a new light on an old technique

By combining oxygen and light, photodynamic therapies are known to kill malignant cells and shut down tumors, with evidence they also stimulate the immune system.

PDT sounds like a new thang, but Danish physiologist Prof Niels Finsen got on to the idea in 1903 and snagged a Nobel Prize for his work.

Since then, at least 500 PDT trials have been carried out, with the Russians proving especially interested. But advancement was hampered by “off target” issues including toxicity and lack of solubility.

Eventually, the US Food and Drug Administration approved a PDT treatment for oesophageal cancer, in 1995. In 2017, Israel’s Steba Biotech won European approval for its PDT prostate cancer treatment, Tookad.

A ‘next-generation’ PDT, Photosoft was developed over a decade ago by the RMW Cho Group, the vehicle of Melbourne businessman Michael Cho.

Photosoft is chlorophyll (plant) based and only accumulates in the cancer cells.

By adding conjugates to enhance selectivity, safety and potency, Invion aims to overcome the shortcomings of the old treatments.

About Invion

Invion started out as Cbio, which listed on the ASX in 2010 with an ultimately unsuccessful rheumatoid arthritis (lupus) program.

The company changed its name to Invion in August 2012 on the back of a smoking cessation aid, but a lack of partner interest stubbed that one out.

In 2013, director Dr James Campbell brought in Dr Greg Collier, former head of leukaemia drug developer Chemgenex, as CEO.

In a back-door listing deal in late 2017, Invion entered an exclusive distribution and licence agreement to develop Photosoft.

In 2019, the Hudson Institute said it would partner with Invion to research and develop PDTs, while in the same year Melbourne’s Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre announced a collaboration to research ano-genital cancers.

Dr Collier retired in October 2019 and was replaced by chief operating officer Craig Newton in April 2018 (Mr Newton left in October 2020).

A former executive director of the investment bank Goldman Sachs, Mr Chew met Mr Cho by chance and the rest - as they say - is history.

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