Fresh investment in Novimmune brings fundraising haul up to $245M

Novimmune has tapped existing investors for CHF 30 million ($30 million) to support the advance of its pipeline, particularly a therapy for a rare immune system disorder that is making its way through Phase II. The fundraising brings the total raised by the company in its 18-year history up to $245 million.

Novimmune CEO Ed Holdener

Geneva, Switzerland-based Novimmune will put a slice of the cash into the development of NI-0501, a treatment for the aforementioned immune system disorder, hemophagocytic lymphohistiocytosis (HLH). NI-0501 is designed to inhibit interferon-gamma (IFNγ), a cytokine that rises to high levels in people with HLH as a result of a shortfall in the downregulation of activated macrophages. HLH, the main form of which primarily affects children, is associated with a mortality rate of around 50%. Novimmune thinks its anti-IFNγ monoclonal antibody may control the disease.

Participants in the Phase II trial were initially given NI-0501 only after conventional therapies such as chemotherapy and immuno-suppressants failed to control the progression of the disease. In March, Novimmune gained regulatory clearance to start giving NI-0501 as a first-line therapy. As of last month, the Phase II trial had enrolled 16 children, 14 of whom received NI-0501 after trying other drugs first. Of the 13 people who had completed therapy at that time, 9 appeared to respond favorably to the drug, leading to most of them undergoing hematopoietic stem cell transplantation.

The CHF 30 million fundraising round will support the continued development of NI-0501, which is the focal point of Novimmune's in-house pipeline. Novimmune has long-identified NI-0501 as a drug it can hustle to market unpartnered--while outlicensing other clinical-phase candidates to Roche's ($RHHBY) Genentech and Tiziana Life Sciences (AIM:TILS)--but the program and other pipeline prospects are requiring significant levels of investment. Novimmune last raised cash in 2014 in a CHF 60 million Series B round designed to give it the funds to get the Phase II trial of NI-0501 underway.

Prior to that round, Novimmune raised CHF 20 million in 2010, CHF 62.5 million in 2009, CHF 58 million in 2006 and CHF 15 million in 2000. The total amount raised to date equates to $245 million at today's exchange rate. It now appears that investors want to cash out. Having first brought up the possibility of going public in 2010, Novimmune gave the strongest indication yet that it may IPO last month when it replaced long-serving CEO Jack Barbut with Ed Holdener. The leadership change was framed as part of a move toward going public or finding a trade buyer for some or all of the company.

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