Founded in 2001, Corus Pharma Inc. filed on Friday to raise $100 million in its initial public offering.

The Seattle-based company did not specify the number of shares it would offer or the expected price range. The underwriters are led by New York-based Merrill Lynch & Co. Others are San Francisco-based Pacific Growth Equities LLC, Atlanta-based SunTrust Robinson Humphrey and San Francisco-based JMP Securities. The company intends to list its stock on the Nasdaq exchange under the "CSPH" symbol.

Corus is in a quiet period and could not be reached for comment, but according to its SEC filing, it expects to use most of the proceeds to develop its lead product candidates, Corus 1020 and Corus 1030, and to fund development of its other programs. Leftover funds would go toward general corporate purposes and working capital.

Focused on therapeutics to treat severe respiratory diseases, the company's two most advanced candidates are being developed for cystic fibrosis (CF) and severe persistent asthma.

There are more than 35 million Americans living with chronic respiratory diseases, which are the third most common cause of death in the U.S., the American Lung Association said. Respiratory diseases include CF, asthma, latent tuberculosis and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). In 2002, asthma and COPD accounted for more than $46 billion in costs in the U.S.

Both of Corus' lead products use Starnberg, Germany-based PARI GmbH's eFlow inhalation device to provide faster and more efficient drug delivery. Corus 1020, the company's most advanced product, is designed to treat respiratory infections in CF patients using an inhalable form of the antibiotic aztreonam. More than 90 percent of CF patients die from lung destruction from chronic lung infections. The median life expectancy is 33.4 years, and there are about 30,000 CF patients in the U.S., according to statistics from the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation. Corus recently completed a Phase II trial of Corus 1020 and expects to have data available later this year. It plans to start Phase III trials in early 2005 and submit a new drug application in 2006. The drug candidate has orphan drug status in the U.S. and in the European Union. If all goes well, it could be on the market in late 2006 or sometime in 2007.

Corus' second product, Corus 1030, is inhaled lidocaine to treat patients with the most severe persistent forms of asthma. About 20 million Americans were diagnosed with asthma in 2001, according to National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute data. Corus believes about 700,000 of them suffer from severe persistent asthma, with each of them spending $12,813 a year caring for the disease. About 175,000 of the patients depend on the use of oral corticosteroids, such as prednisone, to control the disease.

Corus has an ongoing Phase II trial for Corus 1030 in patients who are dependent on the chronic use of oral corticosteroids. The company expects to begin pivotal Phase III trials in late 2005, and plans to submit an NDA in 2007.

Corus, which holds all rights to its products, expects to build its own sales organization in the U.S. to commercialize Corus 1020 and Corus 1030 to pulmonologists. It believes it can build an initial sales force of 25 representatives to market the CF product, then later expand the force to 100 representatives to market the asthma product.

At the preclinical level, Corus is working on Corus 1040, a spectrum antibiotic combination formulation to treat respiratory infection, which should move into Phase I testing by 2006.

Corus last raised $65 million in its Series C financing conducted in April and May. The funding was expected to last the company up to two years. The company has raised a total of $123.5 million in three rounds. (See BioWorld Today, April 13, 2004.)

Corus posted a $25.1 million net loss at the end of 2003. As of June 30, it had $1.1 million in cash and cash equivalents and an accumulated deficit of $50.6 million.

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