GSK spinout Convergence ponders IPO leap as new wave of offerings crests

Convergence CEO Clive Dix

GlaxoSmithKline ($GSK) spinout Convergence Pharmaceuticals started out its existence back in 2010 with a Big Pharma partner, some major venture backing and a midstage program for a pain drug. Today it reported some positive results for a Phase II study, setting up a Phase III launch early next year as the biotech ponders a possible IPO in either the U.S. or the U.K. after some pioneers finally managed to break into the British exchange.

Even the possibility of a new biotech IPO is news in the U.K., where life sciences companies had been frozen out of the market up until the recent listing for Circassia ($CIR.L). Here in the U.S., meanwhile, biotech IPOs had been flagging in the general downturn for the sector earlier in the year. But stocks have been buoyed by the recent Merck ($MRK) buyout of Idenix ($IDIX) and a lengthy slate of 7 biotechs plan to mount IPOs this week, including Zafgen (weight loss), Kite Pharma (CAR-T and TCRs) and Ardelyx (kidney and gastrointestinal diseases).

Convergence is taking a genetically defined approach to identifying patients for its drug, CNV1014802, a strategy that sets it apart from more generalized approaches that characterize new drugs in development. In the study, prescreened patients with trigeminal neuralgia (TGN), a severe form of facial pain, were given three 150-mg doses of the small-molecule therapy per day.

"In the primary endpoint of the study there was a treatment failure rate of just 33% for CNV1014802 vs 65% for placebo and a favorable separation from placebo on the Kaplan Meier time to relapse," the biotech reported. "CNV1014802 showed a 2.3 unit decrease in the NRS scale for pain intensity, 60% reduction in paroxysms vs. 12% in placebo and pain severity dropped by 55% vs. 18% placebo, by the end of the study."

GSK kept a stake in the company when it spun out the work, part of its plan at the time to more carefully focus its pipeline efforts and withdraw from part of the CNS field.

"We are delighted by the results of this study which we believe will form the cornerstone of the Convergence investment case as we look to progress the Company's portfolio through to commercialization," noted Convergence CEO Clive Dix in a statement. "Based on these data, we will advance CNV1014802 in to clinical studies with a wider patient population and believe that CNV1014802 will offer tremendous relief to sufferers of TGN and other chronic pain conditions."

- here's the release on the Phase II study (PDF)
- here's the story from Bloomberg
- here's the rundown on this week's planned IPOs