Arguably the most important piece of PharmAust’s mission to make a doggy cancer pill has fallen into place, after it won a licence to use a specific drug from multinational Elanco.

PharmAust is using elements of de-worming drug monepantel, owned by Elanco, in a cancer treatment it’s developing for dogs and humans.

Obtaining the Elanco licence was critical.

The licence is for clinical trials in dogs — and if they go well, Elanco has the option to negotiate an exclusive, global commercial licence to use PharmAust’s animal cancer intellectual property.

PharmAust boss Richard Hopkins says he can now push ahead with scaling up production of tablets that have been reformulated.

(The taste was so bad that only small amounts of the drug could be used. Even within a capsule the risk of a dog biting into it and never accepting the pill again was too high.)

Clinical trials for dogs and “hopefully” humans are now on the cards for late 2018.

Dr Hopkins is excited about several elements of the deal — one being that because monepantel has already been approved by regulators, they can piggy-back off that and potentially save “tens of millions of dollars”.

He says during clinical trials the cost of the drug will be “marginal” to the business.

He’s also giddy over the fact that PharmAust now has a foot in the door with Elanco, a global animal health business.

“They will be advising what clinical outcomes they need from the clinical trials we will be running in order to consider taking up their option,” Dr Hopkins told Stockhead.

PharmAust came out of a trading halt to watch investors sell the news.

PharmAust is interested in the aminoacetonitrile derivatives within monepantel, which it says is a “potent kinase inhibitor” for cancer treatment.

In May last year, the company said its Phase II dog lymphoma trial showed that monepantel either stabilised or reduced tumours in three out of four dogs.

They have patents over the drug as a cancer therapy in the US, Australia, Europe and China.

PharmAust shares were down 4 per cent on the news to rest at 4.9c at midday.