October 22, 2014 / 8:12 AM / 5 years ago

French developer of 'peanut allergy patch' makes U.S. debut

PARIS (Reuters) - French biotech firm DBV Technologies - developer of what it says is a breakthrough treatment for peanut allergy sufferers - makes its U.S. market debut on Wednesday, with a Nasdaq listing set to raise funds for further research.

The Paris-listed company, which develops immunotherapy patches for patients with potentially fatal food allergies, is issuing 2.67 million new shares worldwide via a U.S. listing and a private placement which together will raise at least 90 million euros ($114 million).

“This fundraising will enable us to significantly strengthen our structures in France, notably in research and development,” Chief Executive Pierre-Henri Benhamou told Reuters in an interview earlier this week.

DBV also develops patches for milk and dust mite allergies, but its “Viaskin Peanut” product is the most advanced and represents up to 75 percent of the company’s potential value, according to some analysts.

Benhamou believes the product could be a blockbuster with over $1 billion in global sales. Around three million people suffer from peanut allergy in the United States alone, where the average consumer eats over six pounds of peanut products a year, mainly in the form of a wildly popular spread - peanut butter.

DBV’s desensitization patch administers small amounts of peanut allergens into the outer layers of the skin, where it activates the immune system without bringing the antigen into the bloodstream, as that could cause an allergic shock.

Following encouraging mid-stage clinical results, DBV hopes to start Phase III clinical trials by the first quarter of 2016, for a commercial launch in 2017.

There are currently no such immunotherapy patches on the market and DBV plans to sell the peanut patch on its own, without licensing it to a bigger partner.

The firm says it won’t need a big sales force to pitch the product to doctors as there are only several thousand allergy specialists in the United States. “It’s really within our reach,” said DBV’s finance director David Schilansky.

DBV would not comment on the potential price of the patch, which Bryan Garnier & Co’s analyst Mathieu Chabert estimates will exceed $3,500 per patient per year.

Founded in 2002, DBV floated on the Paris bourse in 2012. Amid a flurry of acquisitions in the pharmaceutical industry, the stock’s price has more than tripled so far this year, bringing the biotech’s market value to 560 million euros.

Analysts have said it could be a target for bigger companies of the likes of Stallergenes, Sanofi, Merck and Mylan.

“There is a lot of interest in DBV,” Benhamou said.

Paris-based venture capital firm Sofinnova and state bank BPI each own around 18 percent of DBV’s capital. The majority of the remaining shares are held by U.S. investors.

Writing by Natalie Huet; Editing by Clara Ferreira Marques

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