Genentech, J&J partner AC Immune files IPO for Alzheimer’s pipeline

Brain imaging

Three weeks after putting the finishing touches to a $43.5 million E round, AC Immune has jumped into the IPO queue. There’s no word on how many shares the company plans to sell, or the price, but its backers have ballparked the targeted take at $50 million with plans to trade on Nasdaq as "ACIU."

The Lausanne, Switzerland-based biotech has 5 programs in the clinic, but it’s best known for crenezumab, an antibody targeted at the toxic clusters of amyloid beta--the most frequently fingered culprit involved in a disease that is wiping out the memories of millions of people around the globe.

Partnered with Genentech in a $400 million deal, crenezumab failed a Phase II study, but demonstrated a strong enough trend to improving cognition among patients with a milder form of the disease to persuade the biopharma powerhouse to take it into Phase III. And that’s a mixed rep that fits many of the late-stage efforts in Alzheimer’s, a research mine field that has seen a long string of prospects blow up, including Eli Lilly’s ($LLY) solanezumab, which is now in its second big Phase III effort.

AC Immune also struck a $500 million deal with Johnson & Johnson ($JNJ) on its anti-tau vaccine work, which targets another likely suspect in Alzheimer’s. 

Since its founding in 2003, AC Immune has relied heavily on German billionaire Dietmar Hopp for much of its financial support.

Hopp had provided the lion’s share of the cash needed to operate AC Immune over the years. And he has the single largest stake in the biotech: 37.7%. Varuma AG holds 23.8% and co-founder and CEO Andrea Pfeifer controls 6.4% of the company’s shares, according to the F-1.

Now AC Immune will have to see how a high-risk biotech IPO involving two marquee industry partners and a billionaire with a taste for biotech investing will do in a market that has seen biotech valuations crash over the last 6 months. So far, only gene editing offerings seem to be doing particularly well this year, with many others either forced to discount their price or withdraw to wait for better days.

- here's the F-1

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