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Rosetta CEO Says Accelerated IPO Report Inaccurate, Declines to Reaffirm 07 Float


Rosetta Genomics Chairman and CEO Isaac Bentwich this week described as "misleading and inaccurate" an article in an Israeli newspaper reporting that his company was planning a June 2006 initial public offering on the Nasdaq, but fell short of denying the story outright.

He also declined to reaffirm statements he made to RNAi News late last year about a potential IPO planned for 2007, raising questions as to whether the company has altered its plans or prerequisites to float its shares in the US.

Earlier this week, Israeli business news outlet Globes Online, citing anonymous sources, said that Rosetta is planning to raise between $30 million and $40 million though a Nasdaq IPO in June. The article further reported that Rosetta has met with underwriters, but has yet to settle on a lead manager for the offering.

Bentwich told RNAi News this week, however, that the Globes Online story "was something that was reported in a very misleading and inaccurate way. We declined to comment on the story before it went out. It was filled with gross inaccuracies," he said.

He declined to comment further.

The Globes Online story "was something that was reported in a very misleading and inaccurate way. We declined to comment on the story before it went out. It
was filled with gross inaccuracies."

As reported by RNAi News late last year, Rosetta has long been planning to float its shares publicly in the US, but had expected to do so in 2007 (see RNAi News, 11/4/2005).

Speaking to RNAi News on the sidelines of the Nucleic Acid World Summit in Cambridge, Mass., in November, Bentwich said that Rosetta had met with investment bankers and expected to be able to launch its IPO if it met certain milestones.

Firstly, the company needs to "have three or four … significant, money-making deals with leading biotech and major pharma companies for the co-development/licensing of our microRNAs [for] diagnostics and/or therapeutics," Bentwich said at the time, adding that having commercialized at least one diagnostic is not a prerequisite for an IPO.

Rosetta has already established a collaboration with Asuragen, a diagnostics company comprising the business units of Ambion not acquired by Applied Biosystems earlier this month (see RNAi News, 1/5/2006). Rosetta has yet to announce any deal with big biotech/pharma players, however.

Bentwich also said in November that Rosetta needs to have its IP claims granted as patents, "or at least [show] some indication of progress in this direction" before it would file for an IPO. Additionally, the company would need to establish "a broad net of collaborations with academia," and that market conditions should be right for a public offering.

Bentwich this week declined to confirm the statements he made at the Nucleic Acids World Summit. "Things are definitely moving forward, but since they are, it's inappropriate to comment [on the IPO situation] one way or another," he said.

Rosetta was founded in 2000 to develop microRNA-detection technologies, and expects to identify as many as 1,000 human miRNAs. The company claims to have filed around 50 patents on its discoveries, and Bentwich has said that Rosetta anticipates its intellectual property portfolio will give the firm ownership of between 50 and 80 percent of all human miRNAs.

According to Bentwich, the company has established a three-tier business platform that consists of developing miRNA research kits, miRNA diagnostics, and miRNA therapeutics.

In September, Rosetta inked a deal with Ambion to create research kits by adapting Ambion's miRNA platforms to detect, quantify, and functionally characterize Rosetta miRNA sequences. Rosetta expects this arrangement to eventually generate between $2 million and $5 million annually.

On the diagnostics side, Rosetta has already made progress by signing the deal with Asuragen, reportedly to design products for prostate cancer.

As for therapeutics, Rosetta has identified a number of disease areas where miRNA may be applied, including lung and prostate cancers; neurological disorders, such as Waisman syndrome, C-linked mental retardation, spinal muscular atrophy, and fragile X mental retardation; viral diseases such as Epstein-Barr and other members of the herpes virus family, Kaposi sarcoma-associated virus, hepatitis C, and HIV; and endocrine conditions, such as obesity.

Rosetta has established facilities in New Jersey, although Bentwich said in November that the company plans to keep its research and development operations in Israel.

â€" Doug Macron ([email protected])

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