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Startup Microlin Files for $25M IPO to Advance microRNA Drug, Diagnostic Pipeline

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Just months after securing the rights to its core intellectual property, microRNA shop Microlin Bio has filed with US regulators for a $25 million initial public offering.

According to a filing with the US Securities and Exchange Commission, Microlin will primarily used the proceeds of the offering to fund its pipeline, as well as to pay back the money it agreed to pay to pick up the rights to its IP.

Microlin was founded in mid-2013 with the goal of commercializing miRNA-based cancer drugs and companion diagnostics based on the intellectual property generated by researchers from Ohio State University and in-licensed in October.

According to the SEC filing and an interview Microlin Founder, CEO, and Chairman Joseph Hernandez gave Gene Silencing News last year, the company is focusing on four cancer indications: lung, ovarian, colorectal, and prostate.

The first centers on miR-21, which is often upregulated in non-small cell lung cancer. The company aims to develop a test called Lumira that uses the miRNA to identify patients with the disease and a miR-21 antagonist called Lumiralin, which is on track to complete preclinical testing by the end of this year.

Its ovarian cancer program focuses on miR-484, which is believed to be involved in angiogenesis and is often downregulated in the disease. The company is developing a miR-484 mimic called Omiralin and a test called Omira to identify patients with low levels of the miRNA. Last year, Hernandez said that Microlin could have Omira ready for market launch as early as the second quarter of this year. It is not clear if this timeline has changed, and company officials were not available for comment given an SEC-mandated quiet period that accompanies all IPOs.

The colorectal cancer effort aims at miR-17-5p, a cluster of miRNAs that are elevated in a number of cancers and which have been associated with apoptosis and chemotherapy sensitivity. A test called Colomira is under developed to diagnose patients with elevated levels of the miRNAs, as is a therapeutic miR-17-5p antagonist called Colomiralin.

Lastly, Microlin is developing a mimic of the metastasis-associated miRNA miR-34a, dubbed Prostamiralin, to treat prostate cancer. It is further developing a diagnostic based on the miRNA called Promira to select patients who might best respond to Prostamiralin treatment.

All of the company's drugs are delivered using a proprietary lipid nanoparticle system called QTsome, which combines two types of cationic lipids — one with a tertiary headgroup and one with a quarternary amine headgroup.

"These components can provide a stable nanoparticle and facilitate efficient delivery of the anti-microRNA[s] into the cytoplasm of the target cell," the company said in its SEC filing, adding that the nanoparticles "utilize off-the-shelf cationic lipids and helper lipid components that are available in current good manufacturing practices grade from commercial suppliers."

In the SEC filing, Microlin also provided details about its deal for OSU's IP, noting that it signed a total of five agreements with the institution in exchange for $500,000. Thus far, $25,000 has been paid with the remainder due at the end of May.

Microlin further owes OSU about $2.4 million for the IP rights, which the company has arranged to pay in installments but which is due in full should it gross $10 million or more in the IPO. It also gave OSU a 7 percent stake in conjunction with the licensing deal (Hernandez holds the company's remaining 93 percent equity), according to the SEC filing.

OSU is also owed low-to-mid single-digit royalties on the sale of products developed using its IP, as well as undisclosed development and commercialization milestones.

Third to go IPO?

While the miRNA sector is less developed than the RNAi field, Microlin would not be the first company focused on the small, non-coding RNAs to go public.

In 2012, miRNA drug firm Regulus Therapeutics floated its shares at $4 apiece in an IPO that grossed $52 million. Rosetta Genomics, which focuses on miRNA diagnostics, went public in 2007, selling its shares at $7 each to raise $30.2 million.

Notably, both Rosetta and Regulus originally priced their stock higher than what it eventually went for during their IPOs. Regulus had initially sought between $10 and $12 a share, while Rosetta was looking for $11 to $13 a share.

Microlin said in a filing with the US Securities and Exchange Commission that it is seeking $6 to $8 a share for its stock.

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