ViaCell Inc. splashed into the public company pool by filing for an estimated $115 million initial public offering, although perhaps later than it would have liked due to market conditions.
ViaCell, of Boston, filed a prospectus with the SEC for an estimated $115 million IPO and proposed the ticker symbol VIAC. It said it would use the funds for clinical trial activities, preclinical research and development activities and for other general corporate purposes, including capital expenditures and working capital. Lead underwriter for the offering is UBS Warburg LLC, of Stamford, Conn. Also participating are Banc of America Securities LLC, of San Francisco, and US Bancorp Piper Jaffray Inc., of Minneapolis.
ViaCell’s Selective Amplification technology allows for the expansion of stem cell populations using growth-stimulating factors alongside the simultaneous removal of differentiated cells. By repeating this method, ViaCell said it is able to produce an expanded, fairly pure undifferentiated stem cell product. Using the technology, it has expanded hematopoietic stem cell populations by up to 150-fold, with an average 40-fold expansion within a 14-day period, the company said in its prospectus.
ViaCell focuses now on umbilical cord blood, although it said its technology could be applicable to stem cells from other sources as well.
CB001 is ViaCell’s lead product, made of a purified population of hematopoietic stem cells. CB001 is in a Phase I trial for use in stem cell transplants for a variety of cancers and other diseases.
ViaCell was formed through the 2000 merger of the umbilical cord blood banking business Viacord Inc. and t. Breeders Inc., a biotechnology company. Viacord remains a ViaCell subsidiary collecting, testing, processing and preserving cord blood. ViaCell said it has performed collections at more than 850 of the 1,000 top birthing centers in the U.S. In 2001, Viacord brought ViaCell revenue of $7.1 million.
In July, ViaCell acquired the Boston-based company Cerebrotec, allowing ViaCell to combine its Selective Amplification technology with Cerebrotec’s stem cell and neurotrophic growth factor research for the treatment of stroke, thereby forming the ViaCell Neuroscience Division. The division will focus on developing cellular and molecular medicines for stroke recovery and other neurological diseases. (See BioWorld Today, July 26, 2001.)
At the time, ViaCell CEO Marc Beer told BioWorld Today that with the funds ViaCell had raised to that point (about $70 million), coupled with the revenues from the Viacord division, he didn’t expect the company to seek any further financing until an initial public offering. But only if the markets turned around.
The markets remained tight in the third and fourth quarters of 2001, and thus ViaCell raised $15 million privately in late October. Now, with thoughts of an impending economic upturn, ViaCell has formally begun its journey toward being publicly traded. (See BioWorld Today, Nov. 1, 2001.)
Venture funds associated with MPM Asset Management, of Boston, own about 18.5 percent of ViaCell before the IPO, with Greenwich, Conn.-based Tullis-Dickerson & Co. Inc.-affiliated funds owning about 10.7 percent. Cambridge, Mass.-based Zero Stage Capital-affiliated funds own about 10.1 percent of ViaCell. All executive officers and directors of the company as a group own just more than 27 percent of the company.