Promethera plans IPO to bankroll pipeline of liver disease cell therapies

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Promethera Biosciences is planning to IPO in April or May. The Belgian cell therapy biotech has been seen as a possible IPO candidate for a couple of years, but the chatter is now reportedly turning into action.

Mont-Saint-Guibert, Belgium-based Promethera is looking to raise up to €40 million ($45 million), L’Echo reports, to finance its pipeline plans. Promethera’s lead candidate, HepaStem, is a formulation of allogeneic human adult liver-derived progenitor cells. The cells are extracted from donor livers, processed and reconstituted for injection, resulting in a candidate Promethera thinks can treat a variety of liver diseases.

Promethera has tested the drug most extensively in patients with the rare disease urea cycle disorder (UCD). A Phase I/II trial in that indication is ongoing. Raising €30 million to €40 million in an IPO would give Promethera the financial means to continue to advance in UCD, while also freeing it up to expand its ambitions. The biotech, particularly since John Tchelingerian took over as CEO last year, has expressed a desire to go after bigger indications than UCD.

Preclinical testing of HepaStem against acute-on-chronic liver failure and acute alcoholic hepatitis is underway. Promethera is also exploring the use of HepaStem as a treatment for hemophilia, fibrosis and nonalcoholic steatohepatitis (NASH). None of these projects have advanced beyond very early, exploratory testing, but are potentially lucrative opportunities. The challenge for Promethera will be to persuade investors to buy into the idea that one or more of these long shots can pay off.

Investors seeking reasons to be cautious won’t have to look far from Promethera’s headquarters. Fellow cell therapy specialist Celyad ($CYAD) is based a few minutes drive from Promethera. Celyad had accrued far more clinical data than Promethera at the time of its Nasdaq IPO, but that didn’t stop it from later failing a Phase III trial. Investors who backed Celyad at the time of the Nasdaq IPO now find themselves down 54%.

While the jury is still out on whether Promethera or Celyad will ever deliver for investors or patients, the presence of both of them on public markets would represent a significant moment for a corner of Belgium. With the Mont-Saint-Guibert-based pair being 30 minutes by car from Bone Therapeutics (EBR:BOTHE), the region could soon be home to three publicly-traded cell therapy biotechs, making it something of a hotspot for the technology. 

- read L’Echo’s article (in French)

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