ZS Pharma Ends Texas Biotech IPO Dry Spell With $86M Pitch

5/20/14Follow @angelashah

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technology by buying biotechs in Toronto and Wisconsin earlier this year. Its Austin counterpart, Pain Therapeutics, has seen its share of ups and downs over the years—the FDA has twice rejected its lead drug, an extended-release oxycodone (Remoxy) the company co-developed with Pfizer, since 2008. And Lexicon, based in suburban Houston, slashed half of its workforce in January to conserve cash to take a diabetes drug prospect into Phase 3 trials.

The remaining two have dropped off of the Texas biotech landscape. Tanox was acquired by Genentech in 2006 in a transaction worth about $919 million.  Introgen, which was also based in Austin, had been developing a gene-based drug called Advexin to treat head and neck cancers. But when the FDA rejected the drug in 2008, the stock price slid and Introgen filed for bankruptcy. It’s since been liquidated.

Xconomy readers, are we missing any Texas biotech IPOs? Let me know.

In the meantime, ZS Pharma, which was founded in 2008, is developing ZS-9, which is designed to reduce excess amounts of potassium in the blood of patients with hyperkalemia. In March, the company raised $55 million in a private round to help finance late-stage studies for ZS-9 and prep to file new drug applications with the FDA and the European Medicines Agency by early 2015. The IPO cash would help with the effort.

Due to the quiet period imposed around the IPO filing, Robert Alexander, the company’s executive chairman, could not comment on the company’s progress. ZS Pharma initially filed with regulatory authorities last month, reporting that JP Morgan and Credit Suisse will lead the deal jointly.

Does ZS Pharma’s filing signal that Texas’ biotech drought is soon over? Maybe, says Imran Alibhai, vice president at Texas BioAlliance in Houston. How quickly biotech companies actually hit the market after filing their IPO papers depends primarily on ever-changing investor sentiment, along with which life sciences therapeutics are currently en vogue, the syndicate backing the company, and a host of other factors. “Some go out amazingly fast,” he says. “And others lag.”

Angela Shah is the editor of Xconomy Texas. She can be reached at ashah@xconomy.com or (214) 793-5763. Follow @angelashah

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