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Microscience IPO: With a Little Help From Its Friends

Executive Summary

Unusually, the VC investors in UK-based Microscience have announced they will pump a further £10 million into the vaccine developer as it tries to enter the lukewarm public markets with a summer IPO on London's AIM. With underwhelming debuts from Ark Therapeutics and Basilea Pharmaceutica in Europe and dramatically reduced offering prices in both Europe and the US, Microscience's investors' show of solidarity may make a necessary difference. But in the end, it's still all about the valuation.

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Ark Therapeutics: Spreading, or Hiding Risk?

Since its IPO in March 2004, Ark Therapeutics has been watched closely, as the first European biotech to float in nearly three years. Critics point to a lack of strategic focus, claiming the broad collection of products in the firm's portfolio, including a device, drugs and even a diagnostic, will be difficult to exploit in a small company with limited resources. Yet diversity apparently proved an attractive feature-particularly to generalist investors who see the company as a spread risk bet on biotech. It has also allowed Ark to hide the far higher risk associated with individual follow-up programs, where most of the firm's value lies, behind a sure-bet marketed product.

ReNeuron: Going Private

VCs don't usually buy back portfolio companies once they've floated. But Merlin's offer to take struggling stem-cell group ReNeuron back into the private realm gives shareholders a slightly less unattractive deal than liquidation, even though the group is still valued below cash. More importantly, it gives ReNeuron another shot.

Hijacking The Messenger

Recent excitement around exosomes underscores their potential to solve drug delivery challenges that have limited the power and applicability of the biopharma industry’s growing arsenal of therapeutic modalities. 


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