Westphal's Flex Pharma swings for a quick $60M IPO

Flex Pharma, founded by serial biotech entrepreneur Christoph Westphal, is lining up for an IPO less than a year after its launch, angling to raise $60 million to bankroll its work in muscle disorders.

Headquartered in Boston, Flex is developing an early-stage therapy that treats nocturnal leg cramps and spasms associated with severe neuromuscular conditions, like multiple sclerosis. The company's treatment is a combination of ginger extract, cinnamon extract and capsicum, and, because it qualifies as a dietary supplement, Flex believes it can get into pivotal trials without going through the FDA's IND process.

The plan now is to kick off a placebo-controlled proof-of-concept study in the second quarter of next year, Flex said. In tandem, the company is at work on a consumer formulation of its top prospect, hoping to launch it over the counter as a remedy for exercise-associated muscle cramps. A $60 million IPO, if successful, should cover both, the company figures.

Flex came to be in February, founded by Westphal, Harvard Medical School's Bruce Bean and Nobel Laureate Rod MacKinnon. The company nailed down a $40 million A round in September, recruiting a wide cast of investors including former Apple ($AAPL) CEO John Sculley, Alnylam ($ALNY) CEO John Maraganore and Westphal's own Longwood Fund.

Flex's quick trip to Wall Street mirrors the path of Westphal's last brain child, Verastem ($VSTM), which went public in 2012. The entrepreneur's previous claim to fame was leading Sirtris Pharmaceuticals to a $720 million sale to GlaxoSmithKline ($GSK) in 2008.

- read the filing