Abivax May List on Nasdaq After U.S. Lifts Cuba Embargo

Abivax SA, a French biotechnology company that listed on the Euronext stock exchange in Paris last week, may offer shares in the U.S. after the embargo on Cuba is lifted, Chief Executive Officer Hartmut Ehrlich said.

Abivax’s experimental ABX203 treatment for hepatitis B was acquired from the Center for Genetic Engineering and Biotechnology in Cuba, which makes a U.S. Nasdaq listing “difficult” while the embargo is still in place, Ehrlich said in a phone interview on Tuesday.

“With the connections we have with Cuba, we felt that it would be too early to seriously consider the Nasdaq,” the CEO said. “That is something we are looking forward to possibly do at a later stage when the Cuban embargo in the U.S. is lifted.”

The U.S. removed Cuba from a list of state sponsors of terrorism last month as President Barack Obama clears the way for normalized diplomatic relations 54 years after Cuba’s communist revolution. International companies are showing more interest in Cuba because of the potential for looser restrictions on trade and travel.

Abivax raised 57.7 million euros ($65 million) in its Euronext IPO, it said on June 23. The company now has a market value of 197 million euros. Abivax raised enough capital, mostly from European investors, to cover development costs over the next two years, Ehrlich said.

Asia’s Potential

The ABX203 therapeutic vaccine includes an antigen that generates T cells to help eradicate hepatitis B. Abivax joins a crowded field of competitors targeting the liver disease, including Gilead Sciences Inc., Tekmira Pharmaceuticals Corp. and ContraVir Pharmaceuticals Inc. About 240 million people suffer from a chronic hepatitis B liver infection. At least 780,000 people die from the malady every year, according to the World Health Organization.

Abivax plans to retain rights to ABX203 for the Asia region excluding Japan, where the unmet need is highest, and work with local distributors, Ehrlich said. The company is looking to license the product for the European and Japan markets. Those agreements may come after study data is released at the end of 2016, or earlier if any attractive offers are made, he said.

Abivax shares fell 1.9 percent to 20.30 euros as of 2:40 p.m. in Paris trading.

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