Ketamine is a drug that most of us may not have heard of until recently.

That's when many headlines highlighted that Elon Musk has revealed he consumes ketamine which had been prescribed to treat his depression. (Not sure why this billionaire even has bouts of depression, though)

elon ketamine3.24

We don't know how he consumes it -- in the form of tablets or through a nasal spray or whatever?

There is another delivery system -- sublingual -- which a Singapore listco, iX Biopharma, has pioneered and which has advantages. 

iX packages ketamine into a wafer that is placed under the tongue, whereby the drug is efficiently absorbed into the blood vessels and is carried to specific regions of the brain where its anti-depressant effects work.

In Nov 2021, iX granted a Nasdaq-listed company, Seelos Therapeutics, the rights to conduct advanced clinical trials and develop the ketamine product for commercialisation. 

Seelos agreed to hand iX an upfront payment of US$9m (US$3.5m in cash and US$5.5m in Seelos shares) -- and up to US$239 million in milestone payments and royalties.

iX reported in July 2022 that Seelos was in advanced stages of planning for a clinical trial of the iX product called Wafermine, which can be prescribed for not only depression but also Complex Regional Pain Syndrome. The latter brings about excruciating, prolonged pain & inflammation of limbs or joints of sufferers.

But later on things took an unexpected turn.

iX Biopharma stock price

5.2 c

52-wk range

3.5 – 10 c



Market cap

S$41 m

Shares outstanding

768 m



1-yr return




Source: Yahoo!

In Nov 2023, iX issued a termination notice to Seelos owing to certain development milestones relating to Wafermine and related products had not been met to iX's satisfaction.

It may be deduced that Seelos could not progress the Wafermine trial as it had been facing severe financial challenges in 2022 and 2023 and it was juggling several trials of other products.

As a result, Seelos' share price collapsed from ~US$47 in July 2023 to merely 59 US cents recently. 

With iX having recovered its Wafermine rights, iX sees "an opportunity for us to secure revenue from another out-licensing of the asset for Complex Regional Pain Syndrome and depression," said iX chairman Eddy Lee.

"Importantly, no further development work is required for us to execute on our out-licensing strategy." 

While iX seeks another outlicensing partner it is also working on several fronts to progress its other products. A new one is described below.

iX said it has made a breakthrough with the development of a sublingual wafer that incorporates an active ingredient -- semaglutide -- to treat obesity and diabetes.

ozempic 3.24Injection of semaglutide -- Ozempic is a hugely successful brand name in the treatment of obesity and diabetes.Currently, semaglutide and other similar drugs collectively called GLP-1 are most commonly delivered through injections. 

Obviously, given a choice a patient would rather ingest sublingually than inject the medications. 

The semaglutide patent will expire in China in 2026. As such, iX is seeking a PRC partner for the trial of its product and for any future commercialisation. 

DrJanakan Biopharma7.19Dr Janakan Krishnarajah, Chief Operating Officer of iX Biopharma.Unlike an ingredient like ketamine, semaglutide is a large molecule which is not as easily absorbed into the blood vessels under the tongue. 

That's why iX has formulated its product for some of it to be absorbed sublingually and the rest swallowed for some absorption in the stomach and small intestine.

To what degree the iX's product, named iXB401, can deliver the semaglutide will be demonstrated in a trial, which is likely to be conducted over 12 months by a yet-to-be-secured partner.

If judged to be successful, iXB401 could potentially be a huge hit for iX as the addressable market is many multiples of that of  its ketamine product. 

There sure are many millions more people with diabetes and/or obesity in the world than those suffering from chronic pain or depression. 

For more, see iX Biopharma's PowerPoint deck.

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