Novimmune banks $66M for immunotherapies as IPO rumors surface

Swiss biotech Novimmune has closed a $66 million B round to bankroll its broad pipeline of monoclonal antibodies, and one of the company's lead investors told a local newspaper that it's considering going public to further finance its projects.

London's Rosetta Capital led the latest round, which brings Novimmune's total venture haul to roughly $270 million, following a 2010 fundraise in which the biotech pulled in about $20 million.

With the Series B cash, Novimmune can advance what it calls its three-pillar strategy, CEO Jack Barbut said in an email. First, it plans to kick off a Phase II study of NI-0501, an interferon-gamma blocker with potential in hemophagocytic lymphohistiocytosis, a rare and severe immune system disorder with a high mortality rate. Second, it will complete a Phase I study of NI-0101, a first-in-class antibody that blocks the TLR4 receptor to treat a variety of acute inflammatory conditions. And finally, Novimmune plans to get NI-1701 into the clinic, moving forward with a novel bispecific antibody technology the company believes can help overcome tumor resistance to targeted therapies.

Uncommon for a private biotech, Novimmune has 7 clinical candidates in its pipeline, including a Genentech-partnerered interleukin-17 inhibitor targeting autoimmune and inflammatory disease. The company figures it has the resources to take NI-0501 all the way to commercialization on its own, meanwhile believing NI-0101's promise in inflammatory ailments will help lure a strategic partner, according to Jonathan Hepple, a partner at Rosetta.

As for the IPO, lead investor BZ Bank told Zurich's Finanz und Wirtschaft that the company is considering a debut on either the U.S. or Swiss market in the next year. Barbut said his company is "naturally considering multiple strategic and financing options" but has not yet committed to going public.

Novimmune first floated the idea of an IPO back in 2010, shortly after signing the Genentech deal, but an offering never materialized.

- read the Series B announcement
- check out the Finanz und Wirtschaft article (translated)

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