Novimmune has raised money for the second time in 5 months. The latest CHF 30 million ($31 million) investment brings the total raised in 2016 up to CHF 60 million, a sum Novimmune plans to use to hustle its treatment for the immune disorder hemophagocytic lymphohistiocytosis (HLH) through a Phase II/III trial.
Geneva, Switzerland-based Novimmune last tapped its shareholders for cash in January, at which time it pocketed CHF 30 million to advance its HLH candidate NI-0501 and other pipeline prospects. Novimmune has again turned to existing investors for the fresh injection of CHF 30 million, which edges the total raised by the antibody specialist closer to $300 million. The flurry of financing comes months after Novimmune signalled its intent to find an exit for shareholders.
Late last year, Novimmune replaced long-serving CEO Jack Barbut with former Roche ($RHBBY) Chief Medical Officer Ed Holdener. Novimmune framed the change at the top as a precursor to a trade sale or IPO of some or all of the business. Novimmune is a long-mooted IPO candidate, but the ongoing reticence of investors on both sides of the Atlantic to back new listings could limit its ability to secure a value it and its existing backers deem fair.
For a trade buyer, NI-0501 represents the nearest-term opportunity. Novimmune has long viewed NI-0501 as a drug it can take through development unpartnered, a view that has led it to retain full rights to the program while striking deals with Genentech and Tiziana Life Sciences (LON:TILS) for other assets. Between the two CHF 30 million financing rounds, the FDA granted breakthrough therapy designation to NI-0501, a status that could help shorten development and regulatory timelines.
Novimmune has advanced NI-0501 to Phase II/III on the strength of evidence that it can control HLH by inhibiting interferon-gamma (IFNγ), a cytokine that is found in high levels in people with the rare hematological disorder. The mortality rate for the disease is around 50%.
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