After Nasdaq setback, Novartis-backed gene therapy play plans €40M Paris IPO

EuroBiotech logoGenSight Biologics is looking to bounce back from its failure to list on Nasdaq by pulling off an IPO in its home city of Paris. The Novartis ($NVS)-backed gene therapy player has downsized its ambitions in moving back across the Atlantic, with the currently targeted IPO haul of €40 million ($44 million) coming in well below the $100 million it first set out to raise on Nasdaq.

Paris-based GenSight set the $100 million target back in July 2015, months before investors became jittery and sent the IPO market into a deep freeze. GenSight tried to get its Nasdaq IPO away late in 2015 by scaling back its fundraising target to $65 million, but ultimately failed. Then, in April, the developer of gene therapies against hereditary forms of blindness decided to pull the plug on its New York misadventure.

That setback has turned into an opportunity for the Euronext exchange in Paris. GenSight is setting out to raise €40 million on the exchange, a sum that could rise to €46 million if the overallotment is taken up. The target, while small by Nasdaq standards, is large for Paris, which lists the €57 million raised by hepatitis B and HIV player Abivax (EPA:ABVX) among its largest biotech listings. With Abivax down 80% since its 2015 IPO, it is unlikely to have whetted investor appetite for biotech.

Despite that, GenSight is in a strong position for its Paris IPO. With existing backers committing €17 million and Bpifrance Participations signing up to buy €12 million of the shares, GenSight only needs to persuade new investors to part with €11 million if it is to hit its fundraising goal. Going into the Nasdaq IPO, GenSight had secured commitments for $15 million of its $65 million goal. In a turbulent period, finding people willing to take a $50 million punt on gene therapies proved to be difficult.

In lowering its fundraising target, GenSight has been forced to scale back its pipeline plans. The primary objective is still to bring GS010 through Phase III in patients with the rare mitochondrial genetic disease Leber hereditary optic neuropathy and submit the data to regulators on both sides of the Atlantic. At the time of the planned Nasdaq IPO, GenSight had earmarked €45 million for this task, but it now thinks the downsized Euronext haul will prove sufficient.

The main casualty of the IPO rethink is GS030, a gene therapy GenSight is developing as a treatment for retinitis pigmentosa, another hereditary cause of blindness. GenSight had planned to put €30 million of the Nasdaq IPO cash into development of the product, a sum it anticipated would be large enough to take it through to applications for approval in the U.S. and Europe. Now, the plan is to advance GS030 through a Phase I/II study.

While this represents something of a setback for GenSight, its interest in going public in Paris is another sign that the local market is rebounding. After experiencing an IPO boomlet over the first 7 months of last year, the flow of new listings in Paris dried up. That began to change in April when Servier-backed multiple sclerosis specialist GeNeuro (EPA:GNRO) raised €33 million. Since then, ASIT biotech (EBR:ASIT), Pharnext and now GenSight have all filed to list their stock in Paris.

- read the release (French, PDF)

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