AIM float hopes for typhoid remedy

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The Independent Online

Microscience, one of the UK's most advanced biotech companies, is raising £30m in an AIM flotation that will value the vaccines developer at £140m.

Microscience, one of the UK's most advanced biotech companies, is raising £30m in an AIM flotation that will value the vaccines developer at £140m.

The company, which was spun out from Imperial College, London, is testing new citrus-flavoured drinks that could immunise against typhoid and the commonest cause of diarrhoea suffered by travellers.

The valuation put on the loss-making company is being underpinned by an additional £10m cash injection from its venture capital backers, and means its founders and managers share a paper fortune of £14m.

Microscience was founded on the back of work done by three Imperial College researchers, Robert Feldman, Gordon Dougan and David Holden, who own just under 1 per cent between them. Imperial retains a stake of about 1.5 per cent.

Venture capital investors include Apax Partners, which will have 40 per cent after the float, and Merlin Biosciences, run by the biotech entrepreneur Sir Christopher Evans. All have agreed to hold their stakes for at least a year.

Rod Richards, chief executive, whose holding will be worth about £2m, said the market for vaccines was growing at 14 per cent a year, and Microscience hoped to have its first two vaccine drinks launching in 2008.

Microscience's move is the latest evidence that the "window" for raising cash for biotechs has been pushed ajar this year. Ark Therapeutics raised £55m in February but its shares have fallen by more than a quarter. Microscience will argue instead that it is following in the footsteps of Acambis, which has turned itself into a profitable vaccines group thanks to smallpox contracts, and PowderJect Pharmaceuticals, the Liverpool-based vaccines company which was taken over by Chiron of the US in 2002.

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