VC-Backed Movetis Mulls IPO

BRUSSELS (Reuters) – Belgian drugmaker Movetis is considering an initial public offering (IPO) as one of several options to raise capital needed to market its leading product, its chairman said on Friday.

A stock market float by the gastrointestinal specialist, which was founded in 2006 as a spin-out from Johnson & Johnson (JNJ.N), could signal an opening in the IPO window for European drug companies following a dearth of new issues.

Unlike riskier biotechnology groups, Movetis already has advanced products and has just obtained approval from the European Commission to sell its lead drug Resolor, also known as prucalopride, as a treatment for chronic constipation.

It plans to launch the drug in Germany and Britain in the first quarter of 2010, with other EU countries following later next year.

Resolor treats chronic constipation in women for whom existing laxatives fail to provide relief.

“We will need additional financing to launch this product … and we are examining different ways to obtain this financing. An IPO is one of them,” Movetis Chairman Staf Van Reet told Reuters.

Movetis was also considering a further private financing round, Van Reet said, adding that its stakeholders were prepared to continue to invest substantially in the company.

Belgian media have reported that the group plans to launch an IPO next month and could start trading in Euronext Brussels from December.

Besides Resolor, the group has two products in Phase II mid-stage clinical development. They will start clinical trials performed on a larger group of patients next year.

It also has two products in its pre-clinical pipeline.

Resolor will compete with a range of mostly over-the-counter (OTC) drugs, marketed mainly by small to medium-sized players.

“But it is not really a replacement for these products. It is aimed specifically at patients who cannot be helped adequately by existing products,” Van Reet said.

Movetis will conduct further clinical studies to determine the safety and efficacy of Resolor as a treatment for chronic constipation in men, and also intends to develop the product for the treatment of children.

Long termer, it is looking at interesting product opportunities to supplement its offering, Van Reet said, adding however that it had no immediate acquisition plans.

Movetis was spun off in November 2006 from Janssen Pharmaceutica, a unit of U.S. healthcare giant Johnson & Johnson (JNJ.N).

It has the right to commercialise Resolor in the European Union, Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway and Switzerland, but Johnson & Johnson kept the rights for the rest of the world when the group was spun off.

The group is, however, entitled to royalties when Johnson & Johnson starts marketing Resolor in different parts of the world, Van Reet said.

Leading investors in Movetis include French venture capital group Sofinnova Partners and Life Sciences Partners of the Netherlands.

By Antonia van de Velde
(Editing by Ben Hirschler and Mike Nesbit)