Another Alzheimer's upstart swings for a $150M IPO with a PhIII contender

On the heels of Axovant Sciences ($AXON) and its $315 million IPO bash, another small drugmaker is setting its sights on Wall Street with a late-stage Alzheimer's disease treatment and hopes of raking in more than $150 million.

North Carolina's vTv Therapeutics, formerly TransTech Pharma, is plotting to make its way to the public markets by offering 7.8 million shares at between $15 and $17 each. The proposed IPO, expected to price next week, would land the biotech on the Nasdaq exchange under the symbol "VTVT."

With the proceeds, the recently renamed company plans to follow through with azeliragon, a small-molecule treatment for Alzheimer's now in Phase III development. The drug works by targeting the body's receptor for advanced glycation endproducts, or RAGE, which plays a role in the transportation of proteins thought to contribute to Alzheimer's cognition-destroying effects. By blocking RAGE, azeliragon has the potential to slow the march of the disease, and vTv is now enrolling an 800-patient Phase III trial to see whether its top prospect can reduce cognitive impairment compared with placebo.

The trial is broken up into two substudies with 400 patients apiece, vTv said, with data from the first group expected in late 2017. If those results are positive, the company plans to start talking with the FDA about an application for approval, filing azeliragon the following year.

The move comes about a month after Axovant turned heads around the industry by parlaying a $5 million licensing deal into a $315 million IPO, creating a company worth more than $2 billion in a matter of months. Investors' warm reception to such a risky proposition--the field of Alzheimer's R&D is littered with clinical failures, and neuroscientists still disagree on the root cause of the disease--has been cited as further evidence of a biotech bubble grown out of control.

But unlike Axovant, vTv isn't a one-asset operation. Thanks to years of work under its old moniker, the biotech has a pair of midstage treatments for diabetes: the oral TTP399, which works by activating glucokinases in the liver to lower blood sugar; and TTP273, an oral GLP-1 booster designed to provide an alternative to injectable therapies like Novo Nordisk's ($NVO) blockbuster Victoza. The company plans to earmark some of its IPO cash to get those two treatments through Phase II development before scouting for a partner to get them into late-stage trials.

- read vTv's filing