Alzheimer's biotech eyes $300M in a scaled-up IPO

Axovant Sciences, heading toward Phase III with an ex-GlaxoSmithKline ($GSK) treatment for Alzheimer's disease, has upped its IPO hopes to more than $300 million, betting it can win FDA approval where many others have failed.

The company, a subsidiary of Roivant Sciences, is looking to price 17.9 million shares at between $13 and $15 each, setting aside another 2.7 million for its underwriters. Axovant's plan is to hit the New York Stock Exchange under the tag "AXON," in the process raising the funds necessary to take its top prospect through late-stage development.

The biotech's lead drug is RVT-101, an oral 5-HT6 receptor antagonist acquired from GSK for $5 million up front in December. In a Phase IIb trial run by GSK, a combination of RVT-101 and generic Aricept charted statistically significant improvements in cognition over the old drug alone, Axovant said, and the company believes replicating those results in Phase III will be enough to win over regulators.

The plan now is to kick off a late-stage effort in the fourth quarter, recruiting patients with mild to moderate Alzheimer's who are already taking Aricept. If everything works out, Axovant expects to submit global regulatory applications by the end of 2017.

Axovant, formerly Roivant Neurosciences, is run by Vivek Ramaswamy, the former hedge fund manager who founded the parent company. The biotech has recruited Lawrence Friedhoff, who led the development of Aricept at Eisai, to oversee RVT-101 as chief development officer.

Under the RVT-101 deal, GSK is due another $35 million tied to FDA approval, $25 million for a European nod and $10 million if the drug gets onto the Japanese market. GSK is up for a 12.5% royalty on net sales of Axovant's treatment, and if the drug ever brings in more than $1.2 billion a year in sales, the biotech owes GSK $85 million.

- read the filing