BioWorld International Correspondent

LONDON - Ardana Bioscience Ltd. is to float on the main market in London, raising £20 to £25 million (US$47.4 million) for product and company acquisitions, and commercialization of its portfolio of reproductive disorder products.

The price has been set at £1.53 per share, giving a market capitalization of £80 million, assuming the company grosses £20 million.

Several companies joined London's junior Alternative Investment Market in 2004, but Edinburgh, Scotland-based Ardana would become the first biotech to join the main market since Ark Therapeutics Group plc listed a year ago.

Ardana was formed in July 2000 around a five-year exclusive licensing deal with the UK Medical Research Council's (MRC) Human Reproductive Sciences Unit. The company since has raised more than £43 million, which it used to in-license and acquire six products in clinical development. Earlier this month, the contract with the MRC was extended for three years, but all programs arising from the agreement remain at an early stage.

Maureen Lindsay, CEO, told BioWorld International: "The company has achieved a lot in a short period of time, and we have high ambitions going forward. Getting access to the public market helps that, and brings both further funding and access to paper."

In premarketing, potential investors were receptive to Ardana's focus on the underserved niche of reproductive health and on the business model, which is to go against the current fashion and build a fully integrated company.

Ardana set up a sales force in the UK to sell Striant SR, a controlled-release form of testosterone contained in a tablet that adheres to the gums. The product was launched in June 2004. Ardana intends to establish sales and marketing organizations in the five largest European markets in time for the launch of a second product, Teverelix LA, a long-acting formulation of a gonadatrophin releasing hormone antagonist for treating advanced prostate cancer.

The rights to Teverelix were acquired from Zentaris GmbH, of Frankfurt, Germany, in deals in July 2002 and April 2004. Zentaris continues to handle clinical development and last week positive results were announced in a Phase IIa study. In the trial of 14 patients, 93 percent of those on Teverelix LA showed reductions in testosterone levels equivalent to those of castrated men as early as day 3, and 100 percent within the first week. Levels of prostate specific antigen, a key marker for disease progression, also were reduced.

"This is very good news about Teverelix, which is the jewel in our crown," Lindsay said.

Data from two Phase II studies in advanced prostate cancer and benign prostatic hyperplasia are expected by the middle of 2005.

Ardana's other products in clinical development are Test Bi-gel, a lotion containing testosterone for transdermal delivery; Invicorp, an injectable treatment for erectile dysfunction, for which the company has European rights; Terbutaline vaginal gel for treating infertility linked to endometriosis; and Oral Growth Hormone Secretagogue, for growth hormone deficiency disorders.

Lindsay said, "The £20 million to £25 million we are raising is just the start. It is what we require for the next phase. We will target products and companies to acquire."

The company is forecasting it will become profitable in the 2008-2009 time frame.

"There is a clear road to profit, but we will be aggressive in investing," Lindsay said.