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Jul  01, 2020

[TAIPEI TIMES]Senhwa aims NT$1.5bn via 15 million shares

EXPERIMENTAL DRUG: While news about a COVID-19 vaccine is more eye-catching, developing a treatment would be more viable, the Senhwa boss said
By Kao Shih-ching / Staff reporter
Senhwa Biosciences Inc (生華科) aims to raise NT$1.5 billion (US$50.57 million) by issuing 15 million new common shares in the third quarter of this year to fund the research of new drugs, including the experimental drug Silmitasertib for the treatment of COVID-19, the company said on Monday.
That would be the firm’s largest fundraising effort after it raised more than NT$1.4 billion from an initial public offering on the Taipei Exchange (TPEX) in April 2017, chief financial officer Sarah Chang (張小萍) told the Taipei Times by telephone.
The price of the new shares would depend on the firm’s average share price over the five days before the secondary offering, Chang said. Companies usually offer discounts of up to 30 percent, she said.
As Senhwa Biosciences shares have stayed above NT$100 in the past few months, the company expects to raise at least NT$1.5 billion from the issuance of 15 million new shares, Chang said.
The fresh funds would fuel the company’s research and development of Silmitasertib, or CX-4945, which is a small-molecule drug for cancers, such as bile duct cancer, but has shown potential to combat the novel coronavirus with its capability to curb replication of the ribonucleic acid virus.
The company plans to test the drug on mice to evaluate its efficacy in cooperation with the US National Institutes of Health (NIH) next month, Senhwa Biosciences chief executive officer Soong Tai-sen (宋台生) said by telephone yesterday.
The preparation of the animal tests would take some time, as the mice first need to be genetically engineered to have a human version of a protein known as the angiotensin-converting enzyme 2 receptor, which the coronavirus uses as its point of entry, Soong said.
He expects the animal tests to be completed by the end of next month.
As conducting human tests with the experimental drug would be expensive, with an average cost of US$80,000 per subject, Senhwa Biosciences plans to apply to foreign agencies, such as the US Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority, for sponsorship, Soong said.
“Although the development of vaccines against COVID-19 is eye-catching, I think drugs will be the real solution for the pandemic, as COVID-19 antibodies might fade in less than two months, according to recent studies,” Soong said.
Senhwa Biosciences shares advanced 9.96 percent to NT$139.5 in Taipei trading yesterday, after an international team led by researchers at the University of California, San Francisco, identified Silmitasertib as one of the several drugs that could disrupt the viral takeover of cells.
The company’s shares have risen 120 percent from NT$63.5 in March, when the company began focusing on exploiting the experimental drug to treat COVID-19.

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