Alzheimer’s player AC Immune taps IPO for $58M raise, sees shares soar

AC Immune CEO Andrea Pfeifer

AC Immune CEO Andrea Pfeifer

Swiss biotech AC Immune followed through on its IPO $ACIU today, pricing at $11 a share . That’s the low end of the range, but the company bumped the net to $58 million by adding 1.5 million shares, increasing the total to 6 million.

The big payoff came after the open on Friday, though, as the biotech’s shares rocketed up 42% on its debut.

AC Immune has been a prominent player in Alzheimer’s, one of the toughest games in biotech. Backed in part by billionaire Dietmar Hopp, the biotech is partnered with Roche on crenezumab, now advanced into a pivotal study after mixed results in an earlier study.

Mixed results, though, are a big plus in Alzheimer’s, which has known little more than failure over the past 10 years-plus. Earlier today, the 5-HT6 agonist idalopirdine from Lundbeck and Otsuka failed the first of three Phase III studies, and analysts immediately all but wrote it off for dead.

AC Immune CEO Andrea Pfeifer, though, has followed a more familiar path, pursuing amyloid beta, the toxic clusters often found in the brains of Alzheimer’s patients. But the experienced exec also believes that it will ultimately take a combination of drugs to eventually start to control the disease, and is also pursuing tau as a likely culprit.

The company has been building some sizable cash reserves, adding $43.5 million in venture cash last spring and bringing the total venture cash reported so far for its work on Alzheimer’s treatments to $121.5 million

The company has been patiently sussing out a difficult — but not impossible — IPO market. Following a three-year IPO boom, the industry has seen a marked pull back as generalists fled the kind of daunting risk presented by drug development. But there has nevertheless been a steady stream of new offerings, if not the kind of seasonal torrent that hit in 2014 and the first half of 2015.

This year biotech IPOs have required a heavy dose of insider support.

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