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Cheers for Zelira Therapeutics with 256 per cent ASX price climb

Updated: Mar 21

Zelira Therapeutics lit up the ASX boards this week with a 256 per cent jump. Credit: File

It wasn’t so long ago that any mention of medicinal cannabis was met with either schoolyard giggles or deep suspicion of nefarious activity.

But as Bob Dylan sang – with an imaginable waft of the green leafy kind – “the times they are a-changin’”. And the proof of that was in the hurtling ASX share price run last week of Perth-based biopharmaceutical company, Zelira Therapeutics … but more on that shortly.

A new industry emerged in Australia in 2016 following an amendment to the Commonwealth’s Narcotic Drugs Act 1967 that legalised the cultivation and production of cannabis for medicinal and research purposes. Since then, it has seen a rapid rise into the mainstream.

A report released in May last year found that more than 248,000 prescriptions for medicinal cannabis were granted by doctors in the past five years – 85 per cent of which were given out since January 2020.

The industry generated more than $31 million in revenues in 2020-21 and employs more than 1400 workers. Spending on research and development in 2019-20 hit an estimated $62 million.

These numbers are against a backdrop of significant opportunities for future growth, with medicinal cannabis now legalised in more than 30 countries and the global market projected to be worth a staggering US$62.6 billion (AU$94.7 billion) by next year.

The sometimes-polarising campaign backing the legal use of medicinal marijuana in Australia suddenly had a high-profile pin-up boy a year ago when then-Richmond coach Damien Hardwick revealed he had been using it to treat chronic back pain from a decade-old bike injury and encouraged others suffering chronic conditions to have a conversation about the treatment with their GPs. And he was speaking to a big audience, with the Federal Government saying in May of the previous year that one in five Australians over the age of 45 suffered from chronic pain.

Enter Zelira Therapeutics, who lit up the ASX boards this week. Proudly claiming it is “reimagining healthcare”, the company is in the game of research, development and importantly for its followers, the commercialisation of clinically-validated cannabinoid-based medicines.

It is focused on developing and proving up its medicines for the treatment of a variety of medical conditions including insomnia, autism and chronic non-cancer pain, in addition to offering a variety of over-the-counter products.

Zelira is now turning heads after its diabetic nerve pain drug, “ZLT-L-007”, bettered Pfizer’s multi-billion-dollar treatment known as Lyrica. The news triggered a stunning increase in its share price from 94 cents to touch $3.35.

The results of the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA)-approved study found ZLT-007 outperformed Lyrica in achieving a significant reduction in numerical rating score (NRS) pain scores and a decrease in symptom severity. The drug will now be moved into formal FDA clinical trials.

As a commercially available pain medicine, Lyrica served as a reliable benchmark to gauge the pain relief efficacy offered by our novel candidate, ZLT-L-007. In addition, Lyrica has historically achieved peak year annual sales of approximately US$5 billion (AU$7.56 billion), clearly indicating the market potential for Zelira’s pain relief medication that outperformed the level of pain relief from Lyrica. In certain instances, provided up to four times the observed pain relief when compared to Lyrica. Zelira Therapeutics chairman Osagie Imasogie

With such a price leap at the start of the drug’s regulatory journey, one can only imagine what stratosphere the stock might be inhabiting by the time ZLT-007 joins Zelira’s stable of available medications.

Other stock breaking out of the shackles last week included Solis Minerals, which bolted 221 per cent after signing an agreement to snare the Jaguar lithium project in Brazil. Rock-chip samples from the project recorded up to 4.95 per cent lithium, with a pegmatite body currently mapped over 1km of strike which is likely to be tested in Solis’ maiden drill campaign this month.

Software company Webcentral, which manages domain names and IT services, also had a big week after an investment fund picked up five per cent of the company, running its shares up from 6.9 cents to 17.5 – a healthy hike of 154 per cent.

Finally, Reach Resources ensured rare earths remain at the front of the market’s mind. It doubled from 0.006 cents to 1.2c on the back of its latest heavy rare earths samples from WA’s Gascoyne region that also contained high-grade niobium.

Niobium, which currently sells for about US$50,000 (AU$75,600) a tonne, has a proven track record of being a trigger for some big climbs in the rare earths space, as was the case with WA1 Resources in October last year.

That company was hovering around the 11c mark back then and finished last week’s trading at $4.69. It might not be a bad ploy to keep your eyes peeled for niobium finds.

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