AC Immune to Decide This Year on IPO or Sale as Roche Tests Drug

AC Immune, the Swiss developer of an Alzheimer’s treatment licensed to Roche Holding AG, will decide this year whether to pursue an initial public offering or a sale after Roche said it would start late-stage trials of the experimental drug.

AC Immune, backed by German billionaire Dietmar Hopp, will decide “in the next months” which route to take and doesn’t have a preference at the moment, Chief Executive Officer Andrea Pfeifer said in an interview on Wednesday.

The drugmaker is one of a string of companies weighing public sales in Switzerland, after Molecular Partners AG raised about 100 million Swiss francs ($104 million) last year, and Cassiopea SpA went public this month.

“It seems to be really a perfect market to make this decision,” Pfeifer said. “We’re in an extremely solid financial situation and we will take our time.”

Pfeifer declined to say whether the company has received a takeover approach, but said earlier this year that she had been contacted by “many” companies interested in its work on drugs, vaccines and diagnostics for Alzheimer’s.

Closely held AC Immune, based in Lausanne, said it received a milestone payment from Roche after the Swiss giant said on Wednesday that it planned to start a large trial of AC Immune’s crenezumab. Roche gained rights to the medicine in 2006.

Crenezumab, an antibody that targets the amyloid beta protein that accumulates in the brains of Alzheimer’s patients, had mixed results in a mid-stage study last year. The trial missed its main goals, but the treatment showed promise in a mild form of the disease.

The drug’s prospects were buoyed in March, when a similar medicine from Biogen Inc. reduced cognitive decline. That supported a long-held hypothesis that targeting amyloid beta -- also known as Abeta -- is crucial to tackling Alzheimer’s. The theory was in question after a string of failed studies.

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