Picture: Fantastic Voyage/20th Century Fox

Listed biotech Imagion Biosystems (ASX: IBX) is still hard at work developing its early-stage breast cancer detection technology.

Next up on the list: commissioning a toxicology test to ensure the safety of its MagSense imaging product.

Imagion is running the tests at the request of the US Food & Drug Administration, and executive chairman Bob Proulx says the seal of approval will mark a key step in the lead-up to “in-human” testing.

How small? One billionth

Imagion’s MagSense technology uses advanced magnetic sensors that can locate tumours in their early stages of development.

It then deploys tiny nanoparticles — one billionth of a metre — to specifically highlight cancerous cells that are picked up by the sensor.

The nanoparticles are injected intravenously and left to circulate around the body and “tag” cancerous cells early in their life cycle.

Not the only one

More broadly, industry experts are increasingly excited about the use of nanotechnology in breast cancer treatments.

It was the most commonly diagnosed cancer treatment in Australia in 2018, and globally there are almost 200,000 breast cancer cases diagnosed each year.

In view of that, Imagion is one of a number of ASX-listed companies working on the development of products to treat the disease.

But by the looks of the recent price action, the market is still waiting for some evidence that early-stage research can still be converted into a monetised business model.

It’s been up and down over the past year, but the sector has noticeably begun to struggle for traction over the last 6 months:

ASX codeCompany name12-month change6-month changeLast priceMarket Cap
AXP AirXpanders-93%-59%0.036 $18,429,176.00
BD1 BARD1 Life Sciences77%39%0.019 $17,899,114.00
GTG Genetic Technologides-53%-11%0.008 $21,152,926.00
IBX Imagion Biosystems-51%-57%0.029 $9,359,542.00
IMM Immutep41%-11%0.0315 $108,275,144.00
PAB Patrys Ltd5%-39%0.022 $24,669,578.00
PNV Polynovo34%29%0.7 $452,845,312.00
PTX Prescient Therapeutics13%-24%0.07 $15,043,697.00
VHT Volpara Health Technologies34%22%0.955 $187,420,912.00
ZLD Zelda Therapeutics-61%-23%0.056 $44,565,176.00

Coming up short

Imagion had about $1.8 million of net operating cash outflows in the December quarter, well in excess of the $79,000 it received from customers.

To ease the pressure on its cash flows, the company announced a $4.3 million capital raising on September 20 last year.

That turned a lot of heads, because the company planned to issue around 107 million shares at 4 cents a share, which was around half the price they were trading at earlier in the month.

In addition, the company fell well short of its initial target, and around 96.8 million shares were then snapped up by sophisticated and institutional investors as part of a shortfall placement.