September 16, 2015 / 5:06 PM / 5 years ago

World's biggest private biotech Intarcia in no rush to list

(Reuters) - Intarcia Therapeutics, with an enviable cash pile to fund development of its matchstick-size implantable drug-delivery pump for diabetes, is happy to sit out the current initial public offering (IPO) boom.

The Boston-based group clinched a royalty-based financing deal in April valuing the company at $5.5 billion, more than any other unlisted emerging biotechnology business in history.

But while other biotechs at earlier stages of clinical development are choosing to float in record numbers to catch a wave of investor enthusiasm for the sector, Chief Executive Kurt Graves says being private suits him just fine.

“We could go public right now if we wanted but strategically and operationally it is best to stay private for now because we are well-financed and having a laser focus on execution when you are getting ready to launch a diabetes drug is a big benefit,” he said in an interview.

“At some point I’m sure we will be a public company. We hope when we do that we will have launched our first medicine and we have multiple exciting products coming through in the pipeline.”

The firm is already well down the drug development pathway with its mini-pump ITCA 650, partnered with French pharmaceutical company Servier, which has successfully proved its value in final-stage clinical trials.

Full results from two of these, showing ITCA 650 to be more effective than Merck’s Januvia in controlling blood sugar levels, were presented at the European Association for the Study of Diabetes congress in Stockholm on Wednesday.

Graves said ITCA 650 would be submitted for regulatory approval in the first half of 2016 and the firm had plenty of funds for a potential launch around mid-2017.

ITCA 650 contains a year’s supply of exenatide and its success to date poses a challenge to large drugmakers like Novo Nordisk, AstraZeneca, Sanofi and Eli Lilly that sell similar so-called GLP-1 drugs as daily or weekly injections.

Graves believes his product will be more convenient and will avoid the problem of many patients coming off their medicines against the advice of doctors.

Intarcia also has ambitions beyond diabetes. It signed an early-stage development deal in March with Germany’s Numab that could take it into obesity and autoimmune diseases and Graves said further deals to expand the pipeline were on the cards.

Editing by Jane Merriman

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