Could HIV fighter Biotron be the next ASX-listed acquisition target?

Biotron — which is up 742 per cent in less than a week — has confirmed to Stockhead it’s on the hunt for a funding partner to move on to the next stage of testing for its HIV treatment.

A week ago Biotron shares were around 2c — more or less where they’ve been for the past year.

On Friday the stock took off following news that its small molecule therapy, BIT225, was having a significant impact on patients with HIV-1. HIV-1 is the most common and infectious variety of HIV.

Since then the shares have kept climbing and climbing.

On Wednesday the stock hit 16c — it’s highest point since March 2015 and an eight-fold increase since before the grand final weekend.

In early Thursday trade the stock fell back to 11.5c.

It’s a big moment for Biotron, which has for years been developing a therapy to treat viral infections including HIV-1 and hepatitis C.

“We’re delighted to see very strong support from the market,” Biotron boss Dr Michelle Miller told Stockhead.

The test results were “a major step to the ultimate goal of curing HIV-1 infection”, Dr Miller said.

But Biotron will need funding to progress to the next stage — and that means finding a partner if the biotech wants to avoid going back to the market for more cash.

Biotron shares (ASX:BIT) rose 742pc in a week.

“The main next step for us is to partner — we’d like a partner to fund the next stage of development,” Dr Miller told Stockhead.

“We’ve had some good interactions and discussions so far, these things take time to eventuate.

“But we’d like a partner to give back to our current shareholders and so they don’t have keep coughing up.”

Already this year the ASX-listed helath sector has seen a number of tie-ups including the Sirtex takeover deal announced in June — worth a mouth-watering $1.9 billion — along with the $500 million bid for Viralytics and the acquisition of RHS among others.

The goal of many health and biotech companies is to be taken over by a bigger party, preferably by what’s known as “Big Pharma” — a somewhat pejorative nickname for the pharmaceutical industry.

(Pejorative because of the conspiracy theories that big pharmaceutical companies like Merck, Pfizer and GlaxoSmithKline are operating against the public interest — though experts have put those fears to bed.)

Beyond HIV

While HIV and BIT225 are the main focus for now, Biotron would also continue developing treatments for hepatitis C, influenza, dengue fever, zika virus, ebola and severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS).

“These other programs have not received a lot of attention but we are developing them alongside BIT225,” Dr Miller said.

“The results from the latest BIT225 trial validates our approach.”