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Belgian Dx Shop OncoMethylome to File IPO; Sale May Shed Light on Market s Appetite for Dx Plays

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Belgian molecular diagnostic company OncoMethylome is planning to file an initial public offering "in the coming months" in Europe, an event that may serve as a barometer of sorts for the state of the molecular diagnostics market on that continent.

OncoMethylome, which hopes to list on both the Eurolist and Euronext Brussels and Amsterdam exchanges, plans to use the cash from the IPO to expand and accelerate its pipeline of molecular diagnostics, the firm said in a statement. OncoMethylome has no products on the market yet.

Negotiations for the offering are still in the early stages. OncoMethylome spokesperson Lucija Turcinov said "the company and the banks are still deciding the final terms of the IPO, so we're definitely not at the point where we can give indications of the pricing."

With the biotech bust of 2001 still a lingering pain for many venture capitalists who missed out on their exit strategies, and for public market investors who eventually softened on genomic-related tool companies, OncoMethylome's IPO will help shed light on investors' appetite for genomic-based molecular diagnostic companies.

To date, OncoMethylome has penned two collaborations with big pharmaceutical companies to develop molecular diagnostics aimed at determining drug performance. One deal is related to brain cancer and the other to prostate cancer, Herman Spolders, OncoMethylome CEO, told Pharmacogenomics Reporter last week. "In a reasonable time, [these products] will be available in reference laboratories" in the United States and Europe, he said.

In the brain cancer indication, OncoMethylome is working with Schering-Plough to develop a test that can predict the outcome of brain cancer patients treated with the company's drug Temodar (temozolomide).

OncoMethylome and Schering-Plough are participants in an 800-patient clinical trial run by the US NIH Radiation Therapy Oncology Group and the European Organization for Research and Treatment of Cancer intended to show that methylation of the gene MGMT is associated with Temodar response, said Spolders.

In its second drug collaboration, OncoMethylome is working with Johnson & Johnson to develop tests to assess biopsy samples for cancer, as well as a urine-based assay to help doctors decide which patients with low- and medium-level prostate serum antigen should be biopsied. "About 25 of all prostate cancers are in that group," Spolders said.

In addition, OncoMethylome has in its pipeline "several" prognostic and early detection assays in cervical, breast, bladder, colon, and lung cancer, he said. The company said it will not disclose specific information about these products until after the IPO.

"First we expect to have bladder cancer and colon cancer after the prostate and MGMT-response prediction assay," said Spolders. The lung, breast, and cervical cancer products will follow, he said.

— Chris Womack ([email protected])

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