Resources company and graphite specialist Archer Exploration (ASX: AXE) has amended its long-standing relationship with the University of Adelaide, by shifting developmental focus away from industrial graphite applications to more consumer-focused graphene-based products that stand a better chance of reaping commercial returns for the small cap miner.
Archer and the University of Adelaide first agreed their relationship back in 2014, as part of a A$200,000 research agreement to develop the next generation of products utilising graphene; such as oxide sheets, nanosheets, membranes, powders, films, and electrodes.
As part of their collaboration, Archer was able to confirm the presence of ultra-high-quality graphite at its flagship Campoona project in the Eyre Peninsula, that is capable of producing graphene with a purity rate in excess of 99.9%, in 2015.
Back to the future
Given Archer’s multi-resource portfolio including graphite, magnesia, copper and gold — the company has been resource-focused and technology-agnostic for several years.
In the past few years, Archer has managed to register Australia’s largest graphite resource in the Eyre Peninsula and the world’s largest magnesite resource at Leigh Creek, both located in South Australia — but has struggled to agree on viable offtake agreements and monetising its “substantial” graphite resources.
However, with the introduction of new CEO Dr Mohammad Choucair, the company is seemingly moving in an entirely new direction that is placing less emphasis on acquiring resources, and more attention on developing the next generation of mainstream products, utilising the high-value properties of graphene.
To pursue its new-found focus more effectively, Archer has adjusted its working relationship with the University of Adelaide to ensure both parties are aligned and working towards the same developmental goals.
“This is an exciting repositioning of our materials development focus with the University of Adelaide to target a high value, high growth market for innovative carbon-based technologies. This change is part of our strategy to capture niche segments of the carbon-based material’s market where we have potential competitive advantages as a vertically integrated participant,” said Dr Mohammad Choucair, CEO of Archer Exploration.
The move adds “significant upside potential” for Archer as a company, not least because of the type of products that Archer will now seek to develop.
The new relationship will see Archer and university researchers developing advanced graphene and carbon-based materials for use in complex biosensing targeting applications, “specifically in the focus area of human health for the betterment of society.”
Archer says carbon-based biosensors could be used to improve medical processes, food toxicity tests, various industrial processes and improve the quality of existing environmental and agricultural testing methods.
Merging mining with biotechnology
More specifically, Archer says that it will now be focusing on developing generic biosensors capable of addressing the largest market segment being medical testing, for the detection of cholesterol, blood glucose, blood gases, pregnancy, infectious diseases and illicit drugs.
If successful, Archer could develop several commercially-viable products, backed by a large JORC graphite resource able to sustain operations for several decades.
Rather importantly, Archer is shifting its focus away from single-minded mining activities, over to biotechnology with a view to achieving stronger commercial potential and a more direct path to market.
According to separate research done by Markets and Markets and IBIS World, the emerging biosensor market is forecast to increase from around US$16 billion to US$27 billion from 2016 to 2022 and forms a niche segment of the US$328 billion global biotechnology market.
With its new technology-focused strategy now set out, Archer says the University of Adelaide will play a key role, with their work expected to result in the “development of all functional elements of a versatile in vitro electrochemical carbon-based biosensor,” with the ability to be “electronically, chemically and structurally tuneable with nanoscale-level optimisation tailored for electrochemical detection of complex biological molecules.”
Today’s news lifted Archer’s shares by 5% in early trade and currently trading at $0.12 per share.