Durham’s Argos Therapeutics revives IPO plans

dranii@newsobserver.comDecember 30, 2013 

Argos Therapeutics, a Durham drug-development company that has raised more than $150 million in venture capital, intends to raise up to $60 million more by reviving its plans to go public.

The 94-employee company filed plans with the Securities and Exchange Commission Monday for an initial public offering of common stock, or IPO.

The filing marks Argos’ second attempt at becoming a publicly traded company. In 2012 Argos hoped to raise as much as $78.8 million through an IPO, but withdrew its plans in the wake of what was at the time a lackluster market.

Argos, which is developing several experimental drugs – most notably a promising treatment for kidney cancer – stated in its latest filing that it plans to use the money it raises to fund further testing of its drugs and to lease and equip a manufacturing facility. The company, which doesn’t have any products on the market, hasn’t decided where its manufacturing plant will be located.

Argos didn’t specify in its filing how many shares it plans to sell or at what price; nor did it indicate what size ownership stake will be purchased by investors via the IPO. Those blanks will be filled in later.

Agos has targeted completing Phase 3 trials of its kidney cancer treatment in time to seek regulatory approval for the drug in 2016, assuming that the test results are positive.

Phase 2 tests found that 21 patients who would have been expected to survive an average of 14.7 months instead survived 30.2 months on Argos’ experimental drug. In addition, CEO Jeff Abbey said in an August interview that one-third of the patients survived for more than four years, versus an expected survival rate of less than 5 percent for that extent of time.

Those test results helped Argos raise $42.5 million in venture capital earlier this year – the most of any Triangle company in 2013 – despite a difficult market for private funding.

Argos lost $15.9 million over the first nine months of this year, thanks largely to $16.9 million spent on research and development, according to the company’s filing. It posted $3.7 million in revenue during that span thanks to federal government funding for drug development.

Risks associated with investing in the company outlined in the filing – as required by regulators – include the possibility that disappointing test results could derail or delay its efforts to commercialize its drugs.

Abbey, the CEO, couldn’t be reached for comment on Monday.

Argos is the second Triangle drug-development company to file for an IPO this month. Last week NephroGenex, which is developing a drug that treats kidney disease in patients with Type 2 diabetes, filed plans to raise $46 million from an IPO.

This year proved to be a landmark year for Triangle companies going public. A total of seven local companies successfully raised money – ranging from tens of millions of dollars to hundreds of millions of dollars – via an IPO. That’s the most Triangle IPOs in recent memory and possibly the most ever.

Argos was incorporated in 1997 as Dendritix. It changed its name to Merix Bioscience in 1999 and switched to Argos in 2004.

Ranii: 919-829-4877

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