In IPO arena, things finally seem to be percolating. First, Reliant Pharmaceuticals has filed to raise an IPO worth $300 million in a public offering. The New Jersey company holds rights to four marketed brands, and has three drugs in late-stage clinical trials. Two of its three late-stage compounds have recently received approval from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. This despite the fact that the company lost $170.8 million in 2004. Reliant relies on both third-party drug testers and third-party manufacturers for its cardiovascular drug portfolio.

Phenomix Corp., a San Diego-based drug company focused on immune disease and metabolic syndrome, has raised $40 million in Series B funding. Phenomix has raised $65.5 million in total VC funding since its 2001 inception.

Genomic Solutions Inc., which makes gene-analysis software and instruments, announced plans to go public in an initial public offering worth as much as $100 million.

In addition, Oxagen, a drug discovery and development company, announced the successful completion of a $59.8 Million (£31.6 Million) Series B round to support its work on anti-inflammatories and respiratory drugs.

In some recent Midwest activity, Advanced Life Sciences Inc., a developer of antibiotics and other drugs, plans to raise up to $86.25 million in an initial public offering. Advanced Life Sciences has no products for sale and has had a cumulative net lost of $41.3 million through the end of March, according to the SEC filing. The company has drugs in earlier-stage development that it hopes could treat cancer and HIV patients and is trying to get approval for an antibiotic cethromycin owned by Abbott Laboratories. The drug is in the final stage of testing generally required for U.S. approval.

Not all is rosy as Swiss biotech company Speedel Pharma AG has pulled its planned initial public offering (IPO) on the SWX Swiss Exchange due to weak market conditions, particularly for biotech stocks. The company claims to be under no pressure to go ahead with the listing and plans to continue with clinical trials with its kidney disease drug SPP301.

This follows the recent listing of Swiss drug development company Arpida Ltd., whose shares were sold at the bottom end of the range and are currently trading lower than their issue price. Arpida is focused on the discovery and development of antibiotic drugs that seek to overcome the growing problem of bacterial resistance.

The IPO market had a weak first quarter, with only eight companies going public. But, of those eight, four companies were biopharmaceuticals and raised a total of $171.8 million. Also, five of the top 10 acquisitions during the first quarter were also biotechs, which sold for $1.75 billion total — keeping in mind that the typical IPO raised $41 million during the first quarter.

While fewer than 40 U.S. biotech companies went public between late 2003 and the end of 2004, overall VC investment in biotech startups dropped 56 percent in the first quarter from the same quarter last year, $656.6 million compared to $1.50 billion.

Noteworthy is that there seems to be optimism in the sector with many predicting some good times ahead for the industry. At Biotech 2005, it was trumpeted that 2005 will be an even bigger year than 2004, as venture capitalists continue to plow more money into the biotech sector.


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