Roche's persistence in Alzheimer's moves AC Immune a step closer to an IPO

Roche's ($RHHBY) willingness to continue plugging away with Alzheimer's programs despite setbacks has moved AC Immune a step closer to filing for an IPO. The Big Pharma has decided to advance the Alzheimer's treatment it licensed from AC Immune into Phase III, giving its partner the confidence to consider tapping public markets for cash.

AC Immune CEO Andrea Pfeifer

Lausanne, Switzerland-based AC Immune has yet to confirm it will go public but Roche's commitment to moving crenezumab into Phase III has improved the odds of a listing. The program was rocked by shaky mid-phase results last year. But, with the industry reappraising the amyloid beta in the wake of encouraging--but far from conclusive--data from Biogen ($BIIB) and Eli Lilly ($LLY), Roche has decided to overlook the negatives and throw money at late phase trials of crenezumab and another asset with a patchy clinical history, gantenerumab.

The upshot for Alzheimer's disease specialist AC Immune is that it now has a Big Pharma-partnered Phase III asset in a huge, hyped indication to pitch to investors. Whether the IPO goes ahead is still an open question--AC Immune has previously mooted a buyout is another option--but it is crunching the numbers to assess what is its best option. And, despite the revival of the long-dormant market for Swiss biotech IPOs, that might mean heading across the Atlantic to see if there is any cash left for Alzheimer's stocks in the wake of Axovant's ($AXON) IPO. 

"We will certainly look at Nasdaq as much as the European markets and choose which is best for our company, when we reach the stage of any decision," AC Immune CEO Andrea Pfeifer told Reuters. A decision is expected in the coming months, although AC Immune maintains its bank balance means there is no financial imperative to go public or sell up. AC Immune last raised cash in January 2014 when pulled in CHF 20 million ($21 million) from billionaire Dietmar Hopp and other investors, but it has also picked up money through licensing deals, grants and milestones over the past 18 months.

- read Reuters' article
- here's Bloomberg's piece
- and AC Immune's statement (PDF)