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Nanotech Liquidia Hops IPO Wave as Lead Drug Faces Late-Stage Test

Xconomy Raleigh-Durham — 

Liquidia Technologies focuses on the small. Its method of producing nano-scale particles improves how a drug reaches its target in the body. Now the clinical-stage biopharmaceutical company is aiming for something big: an IPO to finance tests of a pair of drugs that use this drug delivery technology.

Research Triangle Park, NC-based Liquidia filed the IPO paperwork late Thursday, setting a preliminary $57.5 million target. The company has applied for a listing on the Nasdaq exchange under the stock symbol “LQDA.”

The key to Liquidia’s approach is its manufacturing process, which enables the company to control physical parameters of a nanoparticle, such as its size and shape. This proprietary technology is called Particle Replication In Non-wetting Templates, or “PRINT.” Nanoparticles are formed in molds, which the company says allows it to produce drug particles that are uniform. These molds are part of a continuous system, which makes the process scalable and cost-effective. The company adds that its process complies with the current good manufacturing practices that the FDA requires for drug production.

Liquidia, which was founded in 2008 based on technology licensed from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, started out by partnering with other companies and helping them develop their drugs. The company is now trying to bring its own drugs to the market. But rather than discovering and developing new molecules, Liquidia is trying to make better versions of already approved drugs. These compounds can go through an FDA regulatory pathway that permits a company to use previous research showing that the earlier drug was safe and effective. If all goes well, it’s a quicker and less expensive path to get the new version of a drug to the market.

The first Liquidia drug candidate is LIQ861, a treatment for pulmonary arterial hypertension (PAH). In PAH, high blood pressure develops in the arteries carrying blood to the lungs, resulting in symptoms such as shortness of breath, chest pain, and fainting. The main treatment for PAH is an old, generic drug called treprostinil, which is available in inhaled, injectable, and pill formulations.

Liquidia is trying to improve on the inhaled form of treprostinal. The company has developed a dry powder version that it says can reach deep into the lungs. The inspiration for this inhaled formulation was naturally occurring pollen, according to the filing. The company says its drug has the potential to increase the number of PAH patients that can be treated with an inhaled form of treprostinil, and also delay the start of infusion treatments. The Phase 3 study testing the Liquidia PAH drug enrolled its first patient in March. Safety data from the study are expected in the first half of 2019.

In developing a new inhaled version of treprostinal, Liquidia is aiming to compete against the leader in PAH drugs, United Therapeutics (NASDAQ: UTHR). The company, whose operations are in Silver Spring, MD, and Research Triangle Park, markets three different versions of … Next Page »

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