Infectious disease drug developer Idenix Pharmaceuticals Inc. is looking to go public again.

A year after pulling its first initial public offering off the shelf, the Cambridge, Mass.-based company registered for a $100 million IPO.

Idenix and some of its stockholders are planning to offer the shares. The company, which applied for listing on the Nasdaq market under the symbol "IDIX," will not receive any proceeds from the sale of stock offered by shareholders.

"We feel that the overall market is in great shape with very strong fundamentals," David Arkowitz, Idenix's chief financial officer, told BioWorld Today. "We believe that the overall market, and the biotech sector in particular, will benefit from enhanced liquidity and money inflow in the new year, as well as some additional industry data expected around that time. We feel that being ready to effect an IPO at the appropriate time early in the new year really was the principal motivation for us to be filing at this point in time."

He said it would use proceeds to fund ongoing and future research and development activities, build its sales and marketing capabilities and for working capital, capital expenditures and general corporate purposes. The company has not disclosed the number of shares expected to be offered or a share price.

Goldman, Sachs & Co., of New York, is acting as the placement's sole bookrunner, with New York-based firms Morgan Stanley & Co. Inc. as joint lead and Bear, Stearns & Co. Inc. as co-manager.

Idenix's majority shareholder is Novartis AG, which acquired about 54 percent of the company's outstanding capital stock for $255 million in cash simultaneous with a collaboration entered last spring. The deal, which could be worth up to at least $862 million, includes licensing rights to Idenix's hepatitis B drug candidates - telbivudine (LdT) and valtorcitabine (val-LdC). In total, Basel, Switzerland-based Novartis owns a 57 percent stake in the company.

Its lead drug candidate, telbivudine, is being evaluated as an oral, once-a-day treatment for chronic hepatitis B. The product entered an international Phase III trial in May, with early expectations of filing a new drug application with the FDA in late 2005. Idenix also plans to explore combination therapy, with a Phase IIb trial scheduled to begin in the middle of next year to evaluate the compound with valtorcitabine.

Novartis assumed global clinical development costs of the initially licensed hepatitis B drug candidates and will be responsible for regulatory filings outside the U.S. Idenix's responsibilities include U.S. filings.

Its lead hepatitis C drug candidate, a nucleoside analogue labeled NM 283, is in a Phase I/II trial to study its use as a single-agent therapy in patients for whom interferon-based treatment is not appropriate. A second nucleoside analogue candidate for hepatitis C remains in late-stage preclinical studies.

Idenix's HIV program includes a non-nucleoside reverse transcriptase inhibitor, for which it expects to file an investigational new drug application and begin Phase I/II trials in early 2005.

The company was founded in May 1998 by Jean-Pierre Sommadossi, its chairman and CEO (who owns 6.6 percent of its outstanding shares), and others. Other major investors include Boston-based MPM Capital, with a 14.5 percent share of Idenix, and London-based Nomura International plc, with a 2.8 percent stake. Relative to the proposed IPO, Novartis has the right to concurrently purchase enough shares to maintain its percentage ownership.

Through Sept. 30, Idenix reported $51.9 million in cash and cash equivalents. It also reported a $34.6 million, nine-month net loss through that date.

Idenix first filed for an IPO when it was still known as Novirio Pharmaceuticals Ltd., although unfavorable market conditions forced the company to withdraw it. It filed for the $115 million offering in April 2002 but pulled the offering in December 2002. It changed its name to Idenix in May 2002. (See BioWorld Today, April 16, 2002.)

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