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This Biotech Firm Is Eyeing a $700 Million IPO

September 14, 2016, 10:53 AM UTC
A technician is at work in a laboratory
A technician is at work in a laboratory of Biofortis, subsidiary French biotechnology group Biomerieux, on March 8, 2012 in the company's newly inaugurated headquarters in Saint-Herblain. AFP PHOTO FRANK PERRY (Photo credit should read FRANK PERRY/AFP/Getty Images)
FRANK PERRY/ AFP/ Getty Images/ File

AC Immune, the Swiss biotech company working on treatments for Alzheimer’s disease, has set the pricing band for its keenly awaited U.S. initial public offering, valuing the firm at about $700 million, at the top end of the range.

AC Immune, which filed to go public in May, said it would offer 4.55 million common shares at an estimated price range of $11 to $13 per share to raise between $50 million and $59 million.

Finding an effective therapy for the memory-robbing disease of Alzheimer’s is a “holy grail” of the pharmaceuticals industry, since any successful product is likely to become a multibillion-dollar-a-year seller.

Scientists, however, are still struggling to understand the biology of the condition, even as global cases of dementia are expected to treble by 2050.

AC Immune’s work in the field is more advanced than many, thanks to its tie-up with Roche. The Lausanne-based biotech licensed its experimental drug crenezumab to Roche’s Genentech division in 2006 and the product last year entered pivotal Phase III trials.

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Crenezumab works by targeting protein plaques found in brains of patients with Alzheimer’s.

Another Alzheimer’s drug company, Axovant, stunned many analysts in June 2015 when it came to market with a valuation of nearly $3 billion, although its value has since fallen to around $1.6 billion.

AC Immune, which is backed by German billionaire Dietmar Hopp, plans to use the proceeds from its U.S. share sale to develop separate products targeting Alzheimer’s disease.

The company is the latest among a growing list of European biotech firms, including Britain’s Adaptimmune Therapeutics and French allergy drugmaker DBV Technologies, to opt for a U.S. listing.

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AC Immune is led by Andrea Pfeifer, who formerly headed Nestle’s global research.

With money from Roche largely financing crenezumab, AC Immune plans to use proceeds from its U.S. share sale to develop separate products targeting Alzheimer’s disease.

The group also raised $43.5 million in May in a private financing backed by certain institutional and existing shareholders.

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Pfeifer had told Reuters last year the company was considering an IPO.

Credit Suisse, Jefferies and Leerink Partners are joint book-running managers for the IPO. AC Immune aims to list its common stock on the Nasdaq under the symbol “ACIU.”