Processing Magazine

Biotech IPOs dying on the vine

November 3, 2008

While, the market for initial public offerings has shut down in all industries, with no deals in the United States in nearly three months, biotechnology companies desperate for capital will likely be waiting in line far longer than others when it does re-open, according to Reuters. Once an industry coveted by investors, biotech has not seen an IPO since November last year, when Nanosphere Inc. made its $113 million debut at the bottom of its price range. Since then, it''s down 68 percent, compared with just a 16 percent drop in the sector, as measured by the Nasdaq Biotech index. Others waiting in the wings are throwing in the towel. In the last two weeks, nearly half of the biotech companies in the IPO pipeline have dropped out. They include drug delivery company CyDex Pharmaceuticals Inc., which pulled its filing, along with Xanodyne Pharmaceuticals and Phenomix Corp. both withdrawing recently. That leaves five companies in the pipeline, with deals totaling $330.5 million, according to Thomson Reuters’ data. Among them are Omeros Corp. and Biotrove, aiming for a $115 million and $75 million IPO. As biotech companies have been snubbed by the capital markets, and unable to get financing, they have proven tantalizing, often willing, targets for big pharmaceuticals companies eager to replenish their drug pipelines. GlaxoSmithKline purchased Genelabs Technologies, which develops therapies against hepatitis C, for $57 million. Swiss drug maker Roche Holding AG is trying to buy the shares in Genentech Inc. it does not already own for $43.7 billion, while Eli Lilly & Co. recently acquired ImClone Systems Inc. for $6.5 billion. But that enthusiasm only extends to biotech companies with products ready for sale. When the spigot does re-open, biotech companies with marketable therapies for hepatitis C, cancer and Alzheimer''s therapies have the best prospects, analysts said. Demographic trends could improve biotech''s longer term prospects. But even if the market for IPOs does return soon, biotech companies may have to wait longer than their peers. The greatest threat to the return of biotech IPOs is the nearly universally poor performance of biotech stocks, despite biotech once being the hottest sector. Only 7 of the 61 biotech companies to have gone public since 2000 are currently trading above their IPO price.