* Allergy firm tests European market for larger biotech IPOs
* Follows boom in biotech offerings in United States
* Funds to help bring cat allergy vaccine to market
By Paul Sandle
LONDON, Feb 6 Circassia, a company developing
allergy treatments based on a discovery by scientists at
Imperial College in London, aims to raise about 175 million
pounds ($285 million) of new funds in one of Europe's biggest
The stock market debut in London will help to bring its cat
allergy vaccine to market.
Chief executive and co-founder Steve Harris said the
proceeds of the flotation in London would also support the
firm's programmes in other common allergies such as house dust
mites, grass and ragweed.
Biotechnology has proven to be a hot investment in the past
year in the United States, triggering dozens of initial public
offerings (IPOs) - but the sector has been slow to catch fire in
That makes Circassia an important test of investor appetite
for larger biotech offerings, according to Robin Davison, an
analyst at Edison.
A successful flotation could encourage more biotech firms to
raise money in London rather than crossing the Atlantic, as
Dutch gene therapy company uniQure did this week for
Circassia was formed in 2006 to commercialise innovative
technology developed at Imperial College, which synthesises part
of the allergens that cause reactions in sufferers.
The approach is quicker and has none of the side effects of
treatments that expose sufferers to small samples of the
allergen to build up resistance, Harris said on Thursday.
"We are not based on whole allergen-immunotherapy," he said.
"We take T-cell epitopes that are identified from the whole
allergen, we make them synthetically, and we give four
injections that treat the underlying disease rather than
injections over weeks, months or years."
The company had already received 105 million pounds of
funding from investors including Imperial Innovations,
which holds just under 20 percent, Goldman Sachs, Invesco
Perpetual and Lansdowne Partners, he said.
They had indicated they would support the fundraising, he
said. A small number of existing shares could also be included
in the offer, he added.
The company has conducted over 15 clinical studies for its
programmes, he said, and the results of late-stage trials in cat
allergy in Europe, Canada and the United States were expected in
the first half of 2016.
It has also demonstrated proof-of-concept for treatments for
house-dust mite, grass and ragweed allergies, common conditions
that affect millions of people.
"Over the course of the last six months, we've had some
excellent data on our other programmes and we are now in a
position to push forward on multiple fronts with a lot of
confidence," Harris said.
JP Morgan Cazenove and Peel Hunt are the joint book runners
on the offer.