Aventis spinout Scynexis plots a $55M IPO to push an ex-Merck antibiotic

Durham, NC's Scynexis is queuing up for a $55 million IPO, looking to ride the wave of biotech bullishness and raise cash for its in-development anti-infective.

The biotech, which spun out of a pre-Sanofi ($SNY) Aventis in 2000, believes its oral and intravenous SCY-078 can treat infections tied to the Candida and Aspergillus pathogens, which account for about 85% of invasive fungal ailments in the U.S. and Europe, according to Scynexis. Merck ($MRK) discovered the drug and ran 7 Phase I trials on it before licensing it out to Scynexis last year, the company said, and now the biotech plans to spend the majority of its raise getting an oral formulation into a Phase II study in Candida infections, expecting to kick off enrollment in the second half of this year.

Scynexis pegs the global market for drugs like SCY-078 at around $3.6 billion, and, thanks to the treatment's promise in drug-resistant strains and oral availability, the company believes it can carve out a sizable share of that space. Scynexis' pipeline also includes the Phase II hepatitis C treatment SCY-635 and SCYX-7158, a Phase I drug for sleeping sickness. Furthermore, the company's animal health operation is developing a pair of drugs alongside Sanofi.

Since striking out on its own, Scynexis has been making money providing CRO services, particularly in animal health, and SCY-078 is the biotech's first gambit to take a drug all the way to approval, according to a regulatory filing.

Whether that contractor-turned-IP-holder narrative resonates with investors remains to be seen, but Scynexis is making its pitch amid a prolonged honeymoon for drug developers on the public markets. After a barnstorming 2013 put billions in the pockets of life sciences companies, the first quarter of the new year has been tightly packed with biotech IPOs, already paying out $1 billion to nearly 20 debutantes.

With its pitch, Scynexis joins a fast-growing next wave of biotech hopefuls looking to go public, including Versartis and its $80 million float, Akebia and its quest of $75 million, and Radius Health with an $86 million bid.

- read the filing