Just shy of phase 3, Alzheon calls off $81M IPO

stop sign (knerri61/Pixabay)
Tramiprosate had flopped in a previous phase 3 trial but showed signs of efficacy in a narrow population of Alzheimer's patients. (Walter Knerr)

Tiny Alzheon filed in March to raise up to $81 million in its IPO, funding that would push its once-failed beta amyloid blocker into a phase 3 pivotal trial. Now, the biotech is pulling the IPO. 

Framingham, Massachusetts-based Alzheon picked up the rights to tramiprosate from Neurochem, now known as Bellus Health, in 2013. At the time, the drug had been tossed aside after failing in 2009 to improve cognition in patients with Alzheimer's disease. 

Alzheon's rationale for rescuing the drug was based on a post hoc analysis showing that, while it flopped in the overall population, it fared better in patients who had two copies of the APOE4 gene. So the biotech tweaked the drug and took aim at the narrower population, which makes up about 10% of Alzheimer's patients. 

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The company reported some encouraging phase 1b data at the Alzheimer’s Association International Conference in 2016, with CEO Martin Tolar, M.D., Ph.D., telling FierceBiotech that the company now had the data it needed to plunge into phase 3 in the first half of 2017. Missing that mark, the biotech teed up for its IPO in March with plans to start the trial later this year, but now, with the IPO's postponement, its phase 3 ambitions are on hold. 

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Alzheon is the second biotech this week to pull its IPO; just a day earlier, Mereo BioPharma withdrew its $80 million Nasdaq IPO. The London-based company had been seeking cash to bankroll the phase 3 trial of its brittle bone drug and blamed the setback on “challenging stock market conditions.” But that wasn't the tale told by Morphosys, which got off an oversubscribed $208 million IPO just the week before.