UPDATED: Dual-listed Benitec adds fourth site for hep C trials of TT-034

Dual-listed Benitec Biopharma ($BNTC) has added a clinical site in Texas for its Phase I/IIa trial of TT-034 aimed at treating hepatitis C by reducing its viral load as the company works to utilize funds raised in August in the U.S. to push the program forward.

The company, listed on the Nasdaq and Australian Securities Exchange, said the site at the Methodist Health System Clinical Research Institute in Dallas marks the fourth location for the trial with patient prescreening underway. It's being led by principal investigator Parvez Mantry, the company said in a press release.

The other trial sites are the Duke Clinical Research Institute, the University of California, San Diego, and the Texas Liver Institute, the company said in the release.

In August, Benitec listed on the Nasdaq and raised $14 million by offering 1.5 million shares at an offer price of $9.21 per share.

Benitec is developing gene therapies based on RNA interference with its main candidate, TT-034, aimed at treating hepatitis C by reducing its viral load.

In April, Benitec reported expression of short hairpin RNAs (shRNAs) in the three patients dosed to date. A company official said in an email that expression of shRNA is an essential requirement for TT-034 to exert a clinical reduction on hepatitis C viral load. However, since the dose of TT-034 in these early cohorts is subtherapeutic, the levels of shRNA expression seen are not high enough to result in reduction of hepatitis C viral load.

TT-034 is intended to target liver cells with shRNAs aimed at three specific parts of the hepatitis C genome.

In October 2005, Sigma-Aldrich ($SIAL) agreed to pay about $4.5 million for an equity stake and technology license with Benitec.

The company touts its approach to RNA interference, known as DNA-directed RNAi, saying it's better than the approach to gene silencing used by Alnylam ($ALNY), Arrowhead Research ($ARWR) and others.

- here's the release and clarification (PDF)