Italian oncology specialist Novuspharma S.p.A. of Monza, the latest in a growing list of European biotechnology companies to seek a public listing this year, is looking to raise up to EUR177.3 million (US$150 million) in a combined offering of 2.5 million shares.

The company is issuing 2.05 million new shares, at a price range of EUR66.5 to EUR86.5. Of these, 1.96 million are being offered to institutional investors; 40,000 to private investors in Italy, Switzerland, France and Germany; and 500,000 to the Italian public via an IPO on the Nuovo Mercato of the Italian Stock Exchange.

In addition, its majority shareholder, Novuspharma Invest NV, a holding company owned by venture capital investors 3i Group plc, Sofinnova Capital and Atlas Ventures, is selling off 450,000 shares to institutional investors and has set aside another 375,000 shares to cover overallotments. The holding company's stake in Novuspharma will drop from 77.5 percent to 46.45 percent following the offering and to 40.74 percent if the overallotment option is exercised in full.

SG Cowen and Banca IMI are joint global coordinators, bookrunners and lead managers, while Robertson Stephens International is co-lead manager and Close Brothers Equity Markets is acting as placement agent. The offer period, which opened Monday, is due to close today, and shares are due to commence trading on Nov. 9.

Novuspharma's roots lie in the Italian operations of Boehringer Mannheim. It was spun off as an independent company in 1998 by F. Hoffmann La Roche Ltd., of Basel, Switzerland, following the latter's acquisition of the German firm. It has four drug candidates in clinical trials. Two, a non-small-cell lung cancer treatment, BBR 3464, and a non-Hodgkin lymphoma treatment, BBR 2778, are at the Phase II stage. The other two candidates, BBR 3438 and BBR 3576, both of which are intended for prostate or stomach tumors, are in Phase I trials. These two compounds have similar therapeutic and efficacy profiles. The company plans to take them through Phase II trials and then decide whether to terminate development of one or to license one out to a third party.

Three principal motivations have prompted the present fund-raising exercise. Novuspharma plans to extend its activities in advanced clinical development through to conducting its own Phase III trials, possibly by acquiring a contract research organization. It also aims to in-license compounds at advanced preclinical or initial clinical development stages and to invest in basic research, particularly in molecular oncology, in order to gain access to further targets.

In addition to its cytotoxic drug development efforts, the company is engaged in six research projects for novel cancer therapies. These include research into bisplatinum complexes, molecules with anti-tubulinic action, telomerase inhibitors, compounds with anti-angiogenic activity, oncogenic pathways, and new cancer targets.

No Comments