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Microlin Bio Scuttles Planned IPO

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This article has been updated to correct details regarding the amount Microlin owes under an intellectual property-licensing deal, as well as the number of its employees.

NEW YORK (GenomeWeb) – Roughly nine months after registering to go public, microRNA startup Microlin Bio has pulled the plug on its proposed initial public offering.

According to a US Securities and Exchange Commission filing, Microlin has withdrawn its IPO application citing "unfavorable market conditions."

Indeed, since Microlin disclosed its bid to float its shares in January, the company changed its proposed offering price per share numerous times — from an initial $6 to $8 apiece for 3.6 million shares total to an eventual $4.50 to $5.50 a share for up to 6.9 million shares — yet was unable to garner sufficient interest from Wall Street.

Though there has been a recent renaissance in oligonucleotide therapeutics, Microlin is a small firm that has disclosed little about its development programs. Founded in mid-2013, the firm lists in its most recent SEC filing Founder and Chairman Joe Hernandez and CFO Christopher Lowe as its sole employees.

The company's assets, meanwhile, appear limited to a portfolio of issued and pending miRNA-related patents licensed from Ohio State University that are to form the foundation of a cancer-focused therapeutics and diagnostics pipeline.

Specifically, Microlin hopes to develop products for four indications: lung, ovarian, colorectal, and prostate cancers.

The first centers on miR-21, which is often upregulated in non-small cell lung cancer. The second focuses on miR-484, which is involved in angiogenesis and has been shown to be downregulated in ovarian cancer. The third takes aim at miR-17-5p, a cluster of miRNAs whose expression is elevated in various cancers and is associated with apoptosis. The last involves miR-34a, which happens to form the basis for Mirna Therapeutics' Phase I miRNA-replacement therapy for solid tumors.

Aside from some preclinical data in the literature published by OSU researchers, not much has been disclosed about how developed these programs are.

Late last year, Hernandez told Gene Silencing News that a miR-484-based diagnostic for ovarian cancer would be ready for market launch in the second quarter of 2014. Meantime, in a SEC filing, the company said that a miR-21 antagonist for lung cancer was on track to complete preclinical testing by the end of 2014.

Given the lack of proceeds from the scuttled IPO, however, it is not clear how much of the work necessary to hit these timelines Microlin has been able to conduct. Notably, the company disclosed in its IPO registration statement that it still owed OSU $200,000 for its in-licensed IP.

A request for comment to Hernandez was not returned.

Despite the unfavorable market conditions encountered by Microlin, the overall investment picture for established oligonucleotide therapeutics firms has been increasingly rosy.

Last week, Dutch firm ProQR Therapeutics, which is developing messenger RNA repair technology for cystic fibrosis, closed a $98 million IPO on the Nasdaq. The company is preparing to file an investigational new drug application or international equivalent for its lead drug candidate before year-end.

Earlier this year, Dicerna Pharmaceuticals raised $90 million through its own IPO. While Dicerna did not have any drugs in human testing at the time, it had already raised tens of millions of dollars through private investments and had a pharma partner in Kyowa Hakko Kirin.

In mid-2013, Prosensa pulled in $78 million by going public, buoyed by its pipeline of clinical-stage antisense and exon-skipping drugs for Duchenne muscular dystrophy, myotonic dystrophy, and Huntington's disease, as well as an alliance with GlaxoSmithKline.

And on the miRNA front, Regulus Therapeutics was able to float its shares publicly in 2012, raising about $45 million amid tie-ups with GlaxoSmithKline, Sanofi, and AstraZeneca, and the support of one-time parent companies Alnylam Pharmaceuticals and Isis Pharmaceuticals.

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