BioWorld International Correspondent

DUBLIN, Ireland - AGI Therapeutics plc, a specialty pharma company established by former Elan Corp. plc executives, raised gross proceeds of €42.5 million ($50.3 million) in an initial public offering Monday on the Irish Stock Exchange in Dublin and the Alternative Investment Market in London.

The company issued 33.7 million new shares, priced at €1.26 per share. The stock peaked at €1.60 during early trading in Dublin, and closed its first day’s trading at €1.50. With 67.4 million shares in issue after the listing, that share price valued the company at €101.1 million.

Dublin-based AGI has a clinical portfolio of six products in development for a range of gastrointestinal disorders, and it aims to move a lead product into a Phase III clinical trial early next year.

"We currently have a range of Phase II trials ongoing. What we’re hoping to do is to take a lead product forward and take it through Phase III ourselves," Patrick Ashe, senior vice president of corporate development, told BioWorld International.

Its two most advanced products, AGI-001 and AGI-003, are in Phase II trials for functional dyspepsia and diarrhea-predominant irritable bowel syndrome, respectively.

Each study is expected to report around mid-year. The company plans to undertake one Phase III trial itself and, data permitting, will out-license the second.

"We’d look to move forward pretty aggressively," Ashe said. "We’ll make our selection within a matter of months, once we have the data [in] hand."

AGI-001, a serotonin receptor antagonist, is an orally available s-isomer of pindolol, a commonly prescribed beta-blocker that is usually available as a racemic mixture. AGI Therapeutics in-licensed intellectual property developed by a group of Irish clinicians who had been using it off-label for treatment of gastrointestinal disorders.

AGI-003 is also an isomer of a well-known cardiovascular drug, the calcium channel blocker verapamil, and it also mediates its gastrointestinal effect by binding serotonin receptors on cells in the lining of the gut wall.

The indications AGI is targeting are widely prevalent in U.S. and European populations and are not well served by current therapies, said Ashe. "These are big patient categories," he said.

AGI, which raised €9.5 million in first round funding, was formed in 2003 by CEO John Devane, who, until 2001, was executive vice president of research at Dublin-based Elan. Devane then established Athlone, Ireland-based Athpharma Ltd., a specialty pharma company focused on cardiovascular indications.

The firm quickly out-licensed its entire cardiovascular pipeline to Biovail Corp., of Toronto, and then transferred earlier-stage gastrointestinal programs to AGI Therapeutics.

The latter company has a virtual structure and out-sources all preclinical and clinical development work to contract research organizations and other service providers. Five of its seven staff members are former Elan executives.

Davy, the stockbroking arm of Dublin-based Bank of Ireland Group, acted as AGI’s broker and adviser in the transaction.

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