Drug discovery specialist ImmuPharma (LON:IMM) stole the limelight this morning, announcing that it is in discussions with a “number of companies” interested in jointly developing its breakthrough drug Lupuzor.
The update was given alongside the group’s financial results, which revealed it is in a strong financial position with £12.2 million in the bank. As expected the firm posted a loss in 2011 of £3.25 million.
However, Lupuzor, a treatment for the auto-immune disease lupus, was the story of last year as ImmuPharma clawed back the rights to the potential blockbuster from original partner Cephalon after the latter’s takeover by Teva.
The product is ready to start the final phase of clinical trials and has fast track approval, which should make it hugely attractive to a large pharma company attempting to replenish its drug pipeline.
Chairman Richard Warr said: "Our key objectives for 2012 are to secure a new licensing partner for Lupuzor, to advance our cancer programme and to continue to develop the rest of our asset base.
“We also continue to value and build our key relationship with the Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique.
“As in previous years, these objectives are to be achieved with solid financial management and carefully controlled expenditure."
Analysts say ImmuPharma is likely to land significant upfront payments, with additional milestone payments and a royalty on eventual sales of Lupuzor.
A rival, possibly inferior drug for lupus is predicted to make peak sales of US$4 billion, which suggests the ImmuPharma product has huge potential.
Another main story by Proactive Investors took a closer look at Transeuro Energy (CVE:TSU), which is hoping that the application of modern, multi-zone fracture stimulation technology will do more than liberate a section of the Ukraine’s notoriously tight gas reserves.
For if all goes to plan, it could potentially provide the key to other opportunities in the former Soviet state.
Transeuro is at a tipping point with fracking expected to get underway in the Karlavskoye field, on the Karl 101 well in the next few weeks.
The company has hired Schlumberger to carry out the work, which reflects a more open attitude from the local authorities towards the use of foreign contractors on Ukranian soil.
The well has been drilled and has flowed natural gas and condensates and stable flow rates from all five reservoir intervals. But fracturing is required to increase the flow rates and to make the well commercial.
The overall programme of rig operations and fracking is expected to cost US$3.5 million, and has already commenced.
Karlavskoye, which is in the Crimean Peninsula, is one of many fields discovered and appraised in the Ukraine during the 1960s and 70s that were deemed uneconomic because the technology didn’t exist to achieve commercial production.
It is estimated to contain 472 billion cubic feet of gas in place, so this initial target is reasonably significant.
However, the bigger prize is the opportunity it opens.
There are scores of fields in the Ukraine with broadly similar characteristics to Karlavskoye, which offer the potential for fracking.
These aren’t exploration targets. In many cases, wells have already been drilled on the field, and a huge amount of data compiled, although the quantity and quality of this data is sparse by modern standards.
“In Crimea there are about 10 of these licences we are interested in,” said chief executive David Worrall.
“In all cases they have been discovered. We need to drill a modern well so we can compare the results to the old wells and then apply the appropriate stimulation technology.”
Starting with LOGP, the oil group is has appointed merchant bank Macquarie Capital to help find drilling partners for three operated offshore Ireland exploration licences.
Lansdowne, part of the joint venture that recently drilled the hugely successful Barryroe appraisal well, is now turning its attention to the SEL 4/07 (Midleton, 100 per cent owned), 5/07 (Rosscarbery 99 per cent) and 5/08 (Amergin) licences in the shallow water north Celtic Sea.
Lansdowne chief executive Steve Boldy said: "With the recent completion of the successful test programme on the Barryroe appraisal well 48/24-10z our focus has now turned to attracting farminees for our planned exploration drilling.”
He added that the Barryroe well had highlighted the better flow rates that can be achieved using the latest technology, something that could revitalise the Cretaceous oil play in the Celtic Sea.
In the meantime, ECR is to assess the latest drilling results from its Sierra de las Minas gold project in Argentina before making a decision on its future.
Managing director Patrick Harford, who was in charge of Sierra de las Minas, has resigned from the company though he will oversee the project as a consultant until the drilling is completed.
ECR added that drilling had now started at the El Abra prospect at Sierra de las Minas.
Two holes have been completed and a total of 208 metres had been drilled out of an initial programme of 12 holes totalling approximately 1,000 metres.
Both holes drilled so far have intercepted the target vein at the target depths, confirming the vertical vein orientation, ECR said.
The drilling is intended to high grade gold mineralisation identified by surface sampling continues to depth.
If the results of the programme indicate the presence of a sufficient tonnage of high grade, near-surface mineralisation, small scale production will start at El Abra during the second half of 2012.
In other news in the mining sector, Polo Resources (LON:POL) has sold a 10 per cent stake in the Nimini gold project in Sierra Leone to private equity firm Plinian Capital, which will also assume operatorship of Nimini.
Plinian bought the stake for US$2.5 million, valuing Nimini at US$25 million compared to the US$16.5 million Polo paid for the project in 2011 and a further US$1.5 million invested in exploration and drilling by the end of last year.
“The US$25 million valuation agreed with Plinian represents a significant uplift in the value of the project from the time of the acquisition.”
“We are delighted that Plinian has agreed to be our partner for this project and we look forward to positive results from the on-going drilling campaign over the coming months,” said executive chairman of Polo Neil Herbert.