US developer of rival to Botox plans UK share issue

A US company which has developed a new collagen implant to reduce wrinkles and grow back gums is planning to list on the stock market in Britain.

Isolagen uses a patient's own cells, taken from skin behind the ear, to create a regenerative collagen injected into the face or gums, or around burns or scar tissue. The treatment is being marketed initially in cosmetic surgery as a rival to Botox.

The company's shares are traded in New York, where it has a market value of $300m, but Bob Sexauer, vice-president at the European operations, said Isolagen is considering a secondary listing in London to raise $50m (£30m).

The treatment is currently available only in the UK, some continental European countries and Australia, and the company believes London investors will be keener to fund European expansion than fund managers in the US, where Isolagen will not have regulatory approval until next year.

Some 1,000 people in the UK have been given Isolagen since it became available 16 months ago, the vast majority of whom have used it for cosmetic reasons. Mr Sexauer said: "By the time a person is 45 or 50 they will have lost 40 per cent of the collagen in their skin, but we can rejuvenate the entire face."

Collagen-producing cells, called fibroblasts, are taken from behind the ear and grown in a laboratory. Re-introduced into the patient's skin, fibroblasts are believed to produce collagen that can repair dermal defects such as depressions, scars and wrinkles.

Isolagen has also used its product as a treatment for the scars from severe burns and, from early next year, will be trialling it as a means of growing back gums damaged by gingivitis or ageing.

Based in Houston, Texas, the company was set up in 1995 and joined the New York Stock Exchange in 2001. It lost $11.3m last year as it invested in trials and the regulatory approval process in the US, and launched the product abroad. The company raised $19m from US investors last August and has $13.5m in the bank, enough to finance operations until the middle of 2005.

Mr Sexauer said the company would be talking to investment banks in London in the coming weeks with a listing, probably on the AIM market, by the end of the summer.