Northville-based Gemphire Therapeutics Inc., a cardiovascular drug development company, has filed form S-1 with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission for a $60 million initial public offering.
It hopes to be listed on the Nasdaq Global Exchange under the symbol GEMP. No date has been set for the offering.
The clinical-stage company is developing a cardiovascular drug called gemcabene to lower levels of low-density lipoprotein cholesterol, the so-called bad cholesterol, and of triglycerides, which is fat in the blood. Gemcabene is taken orally once a day.
The drug, which was licensed from Pfizer in 2011, has been tested alone and in combination with other drugs in 895 subjects, both healthy volunteers and patients, in 18 phase one and phase two Food and Drug Administration trials.
Mina Sooch, the company’s president and CEO, previously was the CEO of Plymouth Township-based ProNAi Therapeutics Inc., which produced a drug for patients with non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma that in April 2014 set the record for the largest venture capital round in state history, $59.5 million. In January, Ann Arbor-based Millendo Therapeutics Inc. broke that record by raising a round of $62 million.
In September 2014, Sooch left ProNAi to join Gemphire, and Nick Glover, a veteran of publicly traded biotechs, was brought in to replace her.
Last July, ProNAi had an IPO of $158.4 million.
Co-founder Charles Bisgaier is Gemphire’s chairman and chief scientific officer. He was an associate research fellow in the department of vascular and cardiac disease at Warner-Lambert/Parke-Davis from 1990 to 1998, where he was involved in the discovery and development of Lipitor, a popular cholesterol-lowering drug. He and Roger Newton then co-founded Esperion Therapeutics Inc.
Gemphire is a combination of “gem,” for what founders hope will be a gem of a drug, and “sapphire,” a reference to the career that Bisgaier’s father, Abraham, had as a jewelry maker in New York, arriving in the United States from a concentration camp after World War II.
Pfizer spent tens of millions of dollars on gemcabene between 1999 and 2004. Before bringing gemcabene to trial, Pfizer decided to focus on another cardiovascular drug, spending $1 billion on torcetrapib, which was supposed to raise HDL, the so-called good cholesterol. During phase three trials, patients began dying and the trials halted. Soon after, in 2008, Pfizer ended all research and development on cardiovascular drugs.
The FDA has granted gemcabene status as an orphan drug to treat a condition called homozygous familial hypercholesterolemia. That status refers to a drug that treats patients with severe or deadly diseases that are rare and represent small markets. The designation allows drugs to get to market much faster.
Only two drugs have been approved for homozygous familial hypercholesterolemia, and both are extremely toxic to the liver, according to the FDA.
Jefferies, Cowen and Co., Canaccord Genuity and Roth Capital are underwriting the IPO.
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