Botanix raises $7.4m to develop products

Biotech Botanix has raised $7.

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4 million in a placement of new shares to help it fund the further development of its dermatology products that contain a synthetic form of the cannabis compound, cannabidiol.

Botanix on Wednesday said the placement of about 134 million new shares, at 5.5 cents each, to institutional and sophisticated investors was significantly oversubscribed.

“The overwhelming support for the placement is a clear vote of confidence from the institutional and sophisticated investment community in relation to Botanix’s business strategy,” Botanix executive director Matthew Callahan said.

Botanix will use the proceeds for the further clinical development of its dermatology products and to commercialise its Permetrex drug delivery system.

The company is set to begin a Phase I safety and dosing trial of acne treatment BTX 1503 in the coming weeks.

It also will fast-track the clinical development of BT 1204, a treatment for atopic dermatitis.

Botanix said it would pursue opportunities to generate revenue in the near term to further enhance its funding position.

To that end, the company will start a human clinical pilot study on an over-the-counter acne cleanser, BTX 1701, which will not require extensive clinical studies or approval from the US Federal Drug Administration.

Botanix also is talking to potential pharmaceutical partners on the licensing of the Permetrex drug delivery system for use in the treatment of dermatological diseases.

The global market for acne prescription products, driven mainly by the US market, is expected to grow to more than $US4.5 billion ($A5.9 billion) by 2018.

The larger dermatology market including treatments for psoriasis, eczema and other skin diseases is worth around $US20 billion a year.

Cannabidiol is a chemical that can be naturally extracted in raw form from the cannabis plant.

Botanix has developed a synthetic cannabidiol, which the company says has advantages over the natural form because it has consistent purity, greater scalability and more straightforward prospects of gaining regulatory approval.

Furthermore, Botanix says, the Permetrex drug delivery system can deliver cannabidiol efficiently into the skin whereas medicinal cannabidiol is generally taken orally, which is less effective.

Botanix shares were 0.1 cents, or 1.47 per cent, lower at 6.7 cents at 1135 AEST.

Stosur beats Jankovic in WTA Charleston

Samantha Stosur has started her claycourt season with a straight-sets win over former world No.

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1 Jelena Jankovic at the WTA tournament in Charleston.

No.6 seed Stosur won the second-round match 6-1 6-3 in an hour and 13 minutes.

“I’ve had eight hours of practice on clay courts, so all in all, I’m pleased with how I started the match and got through it in straight sets,” Stosur told the WTA website.

“A lot of it comes down to the serve; if I can hit my spots and be accurate, it’ll be hard for my opponent.

Stosur, who won the Charlestown event in 2010, will play Irina-Camelia Begu or Kristina Kucova in the third round.

Stosur’s fellow Australian Anastasia Rodionova moved in to the second round with an impressive 7-6 (7-3) 6-1 win over China’s Ying-Ying Duan.

The win is the 34-year-old Rodionova’s first main draw singles victory since October 2015 when she advanced to the second round of the Hong Kong Open.

Once she took the first set in a tie-break, Rodionova steamrolled her way through the second, losing only four points on serve as she rattled Duan.

She will now play either Italian veteran Sara Errani or American qualifier Grace Min in the second round.

Australian No.9 seed Daria Gavriolva begins her campaign with a second round match against American Alison Riske on Wednesday (Thursday AEST).

Seeded players to progress to the second round were , the 11th seed, and China’s .

Other first-round winners were Australian Open semi-finalist Mirjana Lucic-Baroni, Lucie Safarova, Bethanie Mattek-Sands, Shelby Rogers, Mona Barthel, Fanny Stollar, Shuai Zhang, Annika Beck, Magda Linette and Daria Kasatkina, on a busy day of action after rain curtailed play on Monday (Tuesday AEST).

American 14th seed Lauren Davis was beaten 7-5 6-4 by world number 91 Maria Sakkari of Greece while 12th seed Yulia Putintseva was beaten 4-6 6-2 6-4 by Poland’s Magda Linette.

Slater unsure whether Cronk will play on

Billy Slater says he wouldn’t be surprised if his Melbourne teammate Cooper Cronk retired at the end of the season rather than play for another NRL club.

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Slater says Cronk, who announced his plans on Tuesday to move to Sydney for personal reasons, could easily play for another few years but isn’t convinced the Test halfback will.

“He’s fit, he’s mentally there and he could go on for a number of years if he wanted to but it wouldn’t surprise me if he did retire because Cooper can do things a little bit different at times,” Slater said.

The veteran fullback said he wasn’t shocked by Cronk’s decision to leave as he could see the writing on the wall once Cronk got engaged to his Sydney-based television presenter partner Tara Rushton.

“I knew it was going to be hard for him to live away from her for two years,” Slater said.

“He tried to make it work but unfortunately for us, he’s moving to Sydney.”

Slater said the Storm didn’t try to convince Cronk to stay, believing it would be selfish to do so.

“He’s doing a selfless thing for his partner and their future and that’s not for us to interfere with,” Slater said.

“He’s put a lot into this club and he’s certainly going to leave a legacy at this club and we’re just focusing on the remainder of this year with him.”

Cronk doesn’t plan to make a decision on his playing future for at least a few months but if he chose suit up in Sydney Slater admitted it would be “weird”.

He said he’d never played against Cronk, with their on-field partnership stretching back 14 seasons and their friendship even longer to teenage days in Brisbane.

Slater, also 33, is off-contract at the end of the season but after only just returning from two rounds of shoulder surgery which sidelined him for most of the last two years, said he wasn’t thinking about his own future just yet.

“This is a totally separate issue to me and it won’t determine what I’m doing next year,” Slater said.

“I’ve got three games under my belt and hopefully I’ll get many more and make that decision later in the year.”

More than half a million sign Melania Trump petition

The Slovenian-born former model and mother of one has continued to live at her Manhattan penthouse apartment more than two months after husband Donald Trump was sworn in as 45th president of the United States.

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The first lady has said that she and 11-year-old son Barron will move to Washington after the current school year ends in the summer.

New York expects to spend an average of $127,000-$146,000 a day for the police and $4.5 million annually for the fire department to protect the first lady and her child while they live in Trump Tower, city police chief James O’Neill wrote February in a letter to local members of Congress.

WATCH: The wealthiest White House in history

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Police spent $24 million on protecting the family from election day on November 8 2016 to inauguration day on January 20, on the eve of which the New York real estate tycoon moved to Washington.

“The US taxpayer is paying an exorbitant amount of money to protect the First Lady in Trump Tower,” said the petition set up on Change.Org.

“As to help relieve the national debt, this expense yields no positive results for the nation and should be cut from being funded,” it added.

(AAP)AP

The petition, which was started two weeks ago, has already been signed by more than 514,200 people. It has a goal of reaching one million supporters.

The petition is to be delivered to Senators Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren, both prominent Trump opponents on the left of US politics.

The president has not returned to New York since moving to Washington but has spent multiple weekends at his estate in Palm Beach, Florida to the frustration of some residents there.

Signatories to the petition have left less than savory words for the first family’s living arrangements.

“Melania not living in the White House is not only expensive but an insult to Americans,” wrote Gary Strauss from Madison, Wisconsin on Tuesday.

“This exposes one of the many hypocrisies of this administration,” added Roderick Grant of Huntington Station, New York.

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Ecuador’s new president warns Assange not to ‘meddle’

Moreno’s election victory Sunday was a relief for Assange, who has been holed up in Ecuador’s London embassy since 2012 to avoid arrest.

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The socialist president-elect’s conservative rival, Guillermo Lasso, had vowed to kick Assange out of the embassy.

But Moreno had some stern words after Assange took to Twitter to celebrate Lasso’s loss.

“Mr Julian Assange must respect the condition (of asylum) he is in and not meddle in Ecuadoran politics,” he said at a news conference.

As results showed Lasso losing on election night, Assange had exuberantly turned around the right-wing candidate’s threat to expel him within 30 days.

“I cordially invite Lasso to leave Ecuador within 30 days (with or without his tax haven millions),” he tweeted — a reference to allegations the ex-banker has money stashed in offshore accounts.

I cordially invite Lasso to leave Ecuador within 30 days (with or without his tax haven millions) #AssangeSILassoNO 长沙桑拿,长沙SPA,/mU3HwPfP44

— Julian Assange (@JulianAssange) April 3, 2017

Assange fled to the embassy to avoid arrest and extradition to Sweden, where he faces a rape allegation.

The 45-year-old Australian, who denies the allegation, says he fears Sweden would send him to the United States to face trial for leaking hundreds of thousands of secret US military and diplomatic documents in 2010.

Outgoing President Rafael Correa, a fiery critic of the US, granted Assange asylum, and Moreno has vowed to uphold it.

Assange’s case has returned to the spotlight since WikiLeaks was accused of meddling in the US election last year by releasing a damaging trove of hacked emails from presidential candidate Hillary Clinton’s campaign and her Democratic party.

That created an awkward situation for the Ecuadoran government, which responded by temporarily restricting his internet access.

Hunted Raiders search for NRL consistency

Canberra front-rower Junior Paulo admits the Raiders’ strong 2016 has placed a target on their backs as they search for back-to-back NRL wins for the first time this season.

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Opposition teams have put the blowtorch on Paulo and fellow giant prop Shannon Boyd this year and the hulking pair will face another test against Gold Coast at Cbus Super Stadium on Saturday.

“Coming off the back of last year’s season, everyone knows how we play,” Paulo said.

“We’ve gone from being hunters to being the hunted.”

Canberra’s victory over Parramatta improved their record to 2-3 last week, while Gold Coast slumped to a second successive defeat with the Warriors proving too strong in New Zealand.

Coming off a crunch win of their own, Paulo knows desperation will have spread through the Titans’ camp this week.

“They’re going to be coming out and trying everything and anything to try and get a win,” he said.

Paulo averaged of 48 minutes for the Raiders last season, a figure which has risen to 56 this year, while Boyd has averaged 40 minutes a game this season up from 35 in 2016.

“There’s always going to be that challenge of us trying to maximise our minutes on the field and that’s what we’re trying to do,” Paulo said.

While Paulo and Boyd have a 27kg weight advantage over Titans’ bookends Ryan James and Jarrod Wallace, the Gold Coast props are both averaging more than 65 minutes of game time this season.

“The Titans boys have been punching out about 60 minutes in their games so it’s going to be a big challenge for me and Boydy,” Paulo said.

One advantage Paulo is counting on is the size and strength of the Raiders’ back five to balance the forwards’ fatigue.

“When the going gets tough there’s always going to be those times when you’re trying to catch your breath in the game,” he said.

“I’m sure anyone in our back five can play in the forwards.

“It’s like having a pack of forwards at the back trying to help us out.

“Having the guys like (Jordan) Rapana, (Joey) Leilua, Jacky Wighton, (Nick) Cotric – when you see them returning the ball you know you’re going to get the set off to a good start.”

High Court upholds record fine for Nurofen’s misleading painkiller claims

Reckitt Benckiser was slapped with a $6 million fine in December, revised up from $1.

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7 million, for making misleading claims about its Nurofen Specific Pain products that were marketed as targeting back and period pain, among others.

Following the Full Federal Court’s decision, Reckitt Benckiser applied for special leave and appealed the decision in the High Court of Australia on the grounds that the Full Court had erred in its assessment of consumer loss, and the finding that the initial penalty was manifestly inadequate. 

On Wednesday, the High Court dismissed the special leave application with costs.

The final decision has brought to an end a near-year-and-a-half ordeal that began in December 2015 after the Full Court found that the manufacturer had engaged in misleading or deceptive conduct between 2011 and 2015 in claiming specific products were formulated to target specific pain, which the court found was not the case.

Each of the Nurofen Specific Pain products in question each contained the same active ingredient, 342 milligrams of ibuprofen lysine, which treats a variety of pain conditions, however is no more effective at treating one type of pain over another.

In April 2016, trial judge Justice Edelman ruled that Reckitt Benckiser pay $1.7 million for contravening Australian Consumer Law for making misleading representations about its products, in a decision that the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) appealed in May.

The ACCC claimed that a penalty of $1.7 million would not prevent other companies from engaging in similar behaviour, and that $6 million was more appropriate to send a strong message.

“[The] $1.7 million in penalties imposed on a company the size of Reckitt Benckiser does not act as an adequate deterrent and might be viewed as simply a cost of doing business,” ACCC Chairman Rod Sims said in May.

In December, the Full Federal Court upheld the ACCC’s appeal, finding that the inital penalty of $1.7 million was not sufficient in light of the need for deterrence and the substantial consumer loss suffered.

“The objective of any penalty in this case must be to ensure that Reckitt Benckiser and other ‘would-be wrongdoers’ think twice and decide not to act against the strong public interest,” Justices Jagot, Yates and Bromwich said of the decision.

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Ex-Obama security advisor Rice denies Trump spying charges

As Republicans sought to steer public attention to unproven claims that Barack Obama’s administration spied on Trump, Rice said that her final months in the White House were focused on Russia’s interference in the election that brought Trump to power.

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“The allegation is that somehow Obama administration officials utilized intelligence for political purposes. That’s absolutely false,” she told MSNBC television.

Early Tuesday, Trump retweeted a report alleging Rice had ordered the compilation of “spreadsheets” detailing phone conversations between Trump associates and foreign officials intercepted by US intelligence agencies.

On Monday, two reports claimed that Rice, who was Obama’s top national security aide, had helped reveal the identities of Trump officials whose communications were swept up in regular US spying on foreign targets.

While the reports cited no supporting evidence, Trump backers pointed to them to support the president’s allegations that the Obama administration used US intelligence bodies to spy on him.

Rice said Obama had ordered an extensive investigation on how Russia disrupted the 2016 election. She conceded that that could have resulted in Trump officials’ communications being picked up and read by US intelligence.

US President Donald Trump.AAP

“From basically August through the end of the administration (January 20) we were hearing more and more, getting more and more information about Russian interference in our electoral process. It was of grave concern,” she said. 

“There was a pace of reporting that accelerated as the intelligence community got more and more information on that.”

Trump and his Republican supporters want FBI and Congressional investigations to target claims that Obama spied on his successor, rather than Moscow’s interference in the election.

Trump has repeatedly called the Russian issue “fake news,” and on Sunday made a plea to “find the leakers.” His spokesman Sean Spicer complained Monday that US media was, in its focus on the Russia issue, pursuing the wrong story.

Devin Nunes, chairman of the House Intelligence Committee probing the Russia scandal, has tried to direct attention to how the Obama administration used intelligence reports.

But Rice and Democrats say the key issue is still what Russia did and whether there was any collusion with the Trump team.

“Right now, there’s a cloud swirling over the White House,” said Eric Swalwell, a Democratic member of Nunes’s panel. “We will not stop until we find out what happened.”

Tasmania reclaims Mersey in $730m deal

The Turnbull government has fast-tracked a decade’s worth of federal funding as it transfers Tasmania’s Mersey Community Hospital back into state hands.

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Malcolm Turnbull said the $730 million cash injection was matched with a commitment by the Tasmanian government to maintain a hospital in the state’s northwest.

The prime minister said most people recognised public hospitals should be state-owned, and after negotiations spanning several months an agreement was reached recently to hand back the Latrobe facility.

“I thought it was important, given the anxiety and uncertainty it produced in the community, it was important to announce it as soon as possible,” he told reporters at Latrobe on Wednesday.

“This is the community the hospital serves and this is the community who have been concerned and are now relieved by knowing that the future of the hospital is secure.”

Canberra took control of the Mersey in 2007 when it was facing downgrade as part of a state hospital reform.

The federal government intervened, offering to pick up the tab to maintain a full range of services and it has since remained the nation’s only commonwealth-funded, state-managed public hospital.

Ownership of the Mersey will be handed to the state government from July 1, with $730.4 million upfront from the federal government so Tasmania can run the hospital for at least the next decade.

Based on interest earned, the lump sum could equate to $1 billion and fund the Mersey for up to 12 years, Premier Will Hodgman said.

“The Mersey hospital has been used as a political football too often and its future has been uncertain, we are changing that,” the premier told reporters in Hobart.

“That is an extraordinary deal … it is the single largest cash contribution by a federal government to Tasmania.”

The money will be quarantined for use exclusively at the Mersey and once exhausted the facility’s funding will come from a combination of Tasmania’s annual health budget and standardised national payments.

The state Labor opposition welcomed the end of uncertainty for staff and patients at the Mersey but had reservations.

“Until we understand exactly how much money will be available, after interest is factored in, we won’t know how this deal will keep pace with the rising costs of healthcare,” Opposition Leader Rebecca White said.

Tasmania’s AMA president Stuart Day said the move toward an integrated state health system is good news and boosts the ability to deliver high quality care by attracting and retaining specialist staff.

STATE OF THE MERSEY

* Opens 1961

* 100-bed facility offering general, emergency and specialist services

* Employs more than 300 staff

* In 2007 the state Labor government plans to downgrade surgical procedures

* PM John Howard responds by promising the Commonwealth will takeover the facility to maintain treatment levels

* Becomes Australia’s only federally funded, state-managed hospital

* Funding subject to two and three-year deals

* In 2017 $730m guarantees funding for 10 years and passes responsibility back to Tasmania

Business frustration with Canberra grows

A business leader has vented his frustration at the state of modern day politics where even the simplest of measures strikes disagreement and risks Australia falling behind the rest of the world.

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Australia Industry Group chief executive Innes Willox says the lack of agreement at both the federal and state levels is damaging confidence and more importantly business investment.

“There is deep and endemic frustration about not just the pace of reform, but the nature of the debate in Australia, the inability to agree on even quite simple measures,” Mr Willox told the National Press Club on Wednesday.

He said while Australia is having “relatively little debates” over whether companies with a $10 million or $50 million turnover get a tax cut, US President Donald Trump is serious about lowering his business rates.

“We are just going to get left behind,” he said.

“We will be punished enormously for it, as a surge of capital flows out of Australia, and from elsewhere, into the United States.”

His comments came the day after the Australian Institute of Company Directors warned the country was stuck in “policy limbo and partisan paralysis”.

Labor finance spokesman Jim Chalmers said Treasurer Scott Morrison’s second budget must lay out a coherent framework that goes beyond slogans.

In a speech in Sydney, Dr Chalmers said a 15 per cent rise in the terms of trade in the past year and record high company profits would help the budget bottom line.

But he said these and the headline economic growth figures mask big drops in business investment, wages growth at a record low and underemployment reaching a record 1.1 million people.

“Our unemployment rate just jumped to 5.9 per cent which is, remarkably, the same rate at which it peaked during the global financial crisis,” he told the Committee for Sydney.

He said the rating agencies are circling, and a downgrade on the coveted AAA rating would push up mortgage costs and damage confidence.

He set out five objectives for the May 9 budget:

* Budget repair which is fair and which secures the AAA credit rating.

* Strong economic growth which is inclusive and people-powered.

* Hard work which is rewarded.

* A decent social safety net for those at risk of being left behind.

* A comprehensive approach to the housing affordability crisis.

“What troubles me isn’t just that the current agenda doesn’t support these objectives, it’s also that the hard numbers show we are heading in precisely the wrong direction,” Dr Chalmers said.