BioWorld International Correspondent

Wilex AG priced its initial public offering at the bottom of the indicative range of €13.80 to €15.80 in a financing that grossed €55.2 million (US$71.1 million).

The company would add another €8.3 million if an overallotment option of 600,000 shares, also priced at €13.80 per share, is exercised in full.

Investors took up all of the 4 million newly issued shares on offer, giving the company about 12 million shares outstanding. That conferred a valuation of about €165 million on the company before its shares begin trading today within the Prime Standard segment of the regulated market of the Frankfurt Stock Exchange. Existing investors Mannheim, Germany-based HDP Beteiligungs GmbH and Munich-based TVM Capital participated in the IPO. "We feel very comfortable with that. It is a strong commitment [to the company]," Juliane Giese, spokeswoman for Munich-based Wilex, told BioWorld International.

HDP, which represents the interests of German software entrepreneur Dietmar Hopp and his family, now holds a 28.5 percent stake in Wilex, although that would drop to 27.2 percent if the greenshoe option is taken up. TVM's stake is 7.7 percent, and would fall to 7.4 percent if the option is exercised.

Wilex, which was founded in 1997, previously raised €68 million in private equity and had €15 million on its balance sheet Aug. 31. The newly raised cash will be used to progress the company's pipeline of cancer therapeutics and diagnostics. It has three main priorities, Giese said. First, it aims to complete an ongoing Phase III trial of the chimeric monoclonal antibody Rencarex (WX-G250) as an adjuvant treatment for patients with non-metastatic renal cell carcinoma (RCC), who are at high risk of relapse after surgery. The global study, which aims to treat some 800 patients in total, began in 2004. "Recruitment is ongoing," Giese said.

The antibody targets carbonic anhydrase IX, an antigen overexpressed in 90 percent of clear cell RCCs, and works by eliciting an antibody-dependent cell-mediated cytotoxicity response. Wilex plans to publish a futility analysis by mid-year 2007, Giese said, and it aims to file for approval in Europe in 2008 and in the U.S. in 2009. Laboratorios del Dr. Esteve SA has rights to the compound for southern Europe, but Wilex will not assign rights for other territories until after publication of the futility data, Giese said.

The company's second priority is to progress development of a diagnostic product based on the same antibody. "We are planning to start a Phase III study for CA9, which is an imaging agent. We plan to start that next year," Giese said. Data from a feasibility study, presented at the Fifth International Kidney Cancer Symposium in Chicago on Sept. 23, indicated it had a 100 percent positive predictive accuracy.

Wilex's third priority program is WX-671, an oral protease inhibitor in development for a range of cancer types, including head and neck cancer. The company is planning to move that compound into a Phase II trial next year. Wilex also has conducted Phase II studies of Rencarex in combination with interleukin-2 and interferon alpha-2a but has not yet decided which options to pursue further, Giese said.

Wilex launched its IPO in an improving environment for German biotechnology. Martinsried-based GPC Biotech AG posted positive Phase III trial data for its prostate cancer therapy satraplatin in September, analyst Martin Possienke at Frankfurt-based Equinet Institutional Services AG told BioWorld International, and MediGene AG, also of Martinsried, recently gained U.S. approval for its genital warts treatment Polyphenon E.

"The sentiment for biotechnology - for product development companies in particular - is not that bad," Possienke said. Nevertheless, although improving, share prices still are low, he added. "German biotechnology has been trading at a significant discount during the first half of 2006. After these positive events, the discount has narrowed a bit."

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