Molecular Partners plots a $134M IPO for some R&D me-time

On the heels of some A-list biopharma partnerships, Switzerland's Molecular Partners is looking to double down on its in-house projects, swinging for a $134 million IPO to help pay its way.

The company, headquartered in Zurich, expects to list its shares on the local SIX exchange by year's end, planning to spend its new funds on R&D, in-licensing and some potential acquisitions.

To date, Molecular Partners has made its name as a go-to collaborator for drugmakers with an eye on protein therapeutics, striking deals with Roche ($RHHBY), Allergan ($AGN) and Johnson & Johnson ($JNJ). Those agreements, which have brought in about $172 million and portend billions more, center on Molecular Partners' proprietary DARPin technology, which allows the company to craft genetically engineered proteins that can mimic antibodies and bind to specific targets anywhere in the body.

Now, with those ongoing deals generating revenue and keeping the lights on, Molecular Partners is ready to focus on its unpartnered DARPin candidates. Most advanced is the Phase I MP0250, a bispecific blocker of VEGF and HGF for solid tumors, followed by MP0274, a HER2-targeting cancer treatment. The biotech also has two early-stage prospects in immuno-oncology and another pair of undisclosed programs in ophthalmology.

Molecular Partners CEO Christian Zahnd

That's where an IPO will come in handy, co-founder and CEO Christian Zahnd said. Molecular Partners, a member of this year's Fierce 15, was never about creating quick value in search of a near-term exit, he said. All along, the biotech has been working to lay down roots and become a long-lasting, independent drug developer, Zahnd said, taking a page from its cousin company MorphoSys.

"Our work focuses on significantly improving the lives of patients in need and to create long‐term value to our shareholders," Zahnd said in a statement. "I am enthusiastic about the prospects of continuing to build a sustainable biopharmaceutical company and the future growth which will be supported by the planned IPO."

Meanwhile, the long-running boom in U.S. biotech IPOs hasn't quite been mirrored across the Atlantic, as a confluence of factors has kept European life sciences floats few and far between. Last year, the U.K.'s Circassia pulled off a $332 million offering, leading many to predict a coming slew of filings, but nothing of the sort ever materialized.

- read the release (PDF)

Special Report: FierceBiotech's 2014 Fierce 15 - Molecular Partners

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