Pieris files for $35M IPO in upgrade to Nasdaq

Pieris Pharmaceuticals ($PIRS) has filed to step up to Nasdaq from OTCQB and add $35 million (€31 million) to its bank balance in the process. The listing would end Pieris' short stay on OTCQB, which began when it acquired Marika in a reverse merger late last year and allowed it to raise $13.5 million in a private placement from investors including OrbiMed Advisors.

Freising, Germany-based Pieris has embarked on the fundraising push to finance the advance of its pipeline of anemia, asthma and immuno-oncology assets into the clinic. Data from a Phase I trial of the lead candidate, PRS-080, are due later this year. PRS-080, like all of Pieris' in-house, partnered and co-developed assets, is based on its Anticalin technology, an engineered form of endogenous low-molecular-weight human proteins that the biotech thinks can improve on existing targeted biologics. The belief is underpinned by the stable structure, small size and human origin of the drugs.

Daiichi Sankyo and Sanofi ($SNY) saw enough potential in the class of proteins to team up with Pieris in 2011 and 2010, respectively, although neither alliance has resulted in a clinical-phase candidate yet. The lead program in the Daiichi collaboration is the most advanced of the partnered projects, having moved into preclinical development and contributed to the triggering of four milestone payments. Sanofi also has a partnered program at an early stage of preclinical development and paid two milestones to Pieris last year under the terms of their alliance, which was expanded in 2013.

The challenge now for Pieris is to convince financiers these early successes are sufficient justification to invest in yet another European biotech with a pipeline of immuno-oncology assets. Pieris' most advanced immuno-oncology candidate, PRS-343, is still in preclinical but the biotech thinks it has seen reason to believe the combination of a CD137-specific Anticalin with a HER2-targeting antibody hold promise as a treatment for a range of tumors. The idea is to improve on earlier CD137 drugs by using an Anticalin to smuggle a protein into the microenvironment of HER2-implicated tumors.

Pieris is also looking at a raft of other bi- and multispecific Anticalin proteins against costimulatory and checkpoint targets in an attempt to find a role for its technology in the immuno-oncology field.

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