Abivax files for IPO to finance trials of HepB vaccine, HIV antiviral

Abivax has filed the paperwork for an IPO in Paris. The listing is intended to give Abivax the cash to fund mid- to late-phase trials of its two lead candidates, a therapeutic vaccine against hepatitis B and a small-molecule inhibitor of HIV replication.

Abivax CEO Dr. Hartmut Ehrlich

The hepatitis B vaccine, ABX203, is the more advanced of the two candidates. Abivax acquired the vaccine from Cuba's Centre for Genetic Engineering and Biotechnology, the R&D institute at the heart of the country's well-regarded biotech sector. Paris, France-based Abivax is enrolling people into a Phase IIb/III across Australia, New Zealand and the rest of the Asia-Pacific region in an attempt to show the vaccine can control the viral load of hepatitis B patients for longer than is possible using current treatments. The trial began in December.

If the trial is a success, Abivax plans to sell ABX203 in Asia-Pacific and Africa through distributors and look for a biopharma partner to bring it to market in Europe. Abivax plans to apply a similar geographic split to its HIV antiviral, ABX464, for which it is seeking a biopharma partner to handle the U.S. and Europe. The asset emerged from Abivax's collaboration with a French government research institute in Montpellier and has advanced as far as Phase IIa. Data are due later this year, after which Abivax will decide whether to plough its IPO haul into a pair of Phase IIb studies.

The proposed Phase IIb trials are among the main factors motivating the IPO. Abivax has yet to set a firm fundraising target for the IPO, but its chairman, Philippe Pouletty, put the goal around the €50 million ($55 million) mark when talking to BioPharm Insight last month. At that time, Pouletty viewed an IPO as a fallback option in case post-Phase IIa partnering discussions about ABX464 failed to lead to an attractive offer by 2016. Wrapping up the IPO now means Abivax could enter licensing discussions knowing it has the cash to advance into Phase IIb without a partner.

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