* Novimmune touted as a potential IPO candidate
* Andrew J. Oakley to take up role immediately
* Spent a decade at Actelion building up company
By Caroline Copley
ZURICH, March 12 Privately-held Swiss biotech company Novimmune, has appointed former Actelion CFO Andrew Oakley as its new finance chief, increasing expectations that the company will go public.
Oakley, a UK and Australian citizen who was chief financial officer of Actelion for a decade, stepped down from the company last August. He will take up his new role with immediate effect, Novimmune said.
"With Novimmune's research and development efforts maturing, our company will benefit significantly from his extensive experience in both the biopharmaceutical industry and the global capital markets," Chief Executive Jack Barbut said in a statement on Wednesday.
Novimmune has six compounds in clinical development to treat autoimmune and inflammatory diseases, including one monoclonal antibody which it is developing in partnership with Roche subsidiary Genentech.
In February, an executive at BZ Bank, one of the top investors in Novimmune, told the Swiss newspaper Finanz und Wirtschaft that the company was considering selling its shares on either the U.S. or Swiss market.
"They can profit from Oakley's expertise as CFO of a listed company in readiness for a potential IPO," said Helvea analyst Olav Zilian.
Biotech stocks have enjoyed an exceptionally strong run in the United States over the past two years, raising speculation as to when the fever might cross the Atlantic.
Last month, Circassia, a company developing allergy treatments based on a discovery by scientists at Imperial College, said it aims to raise $285 million in one of Europe's biggest IPOs.