Life sciences drought to end as IPOs flow in US

'What happens in the US flows to the rest of the world', says Glenn Crocker. Picture: Contributed
'What happens in the US flows to the rest of the world', says Glenn Crocker. Picture: Contributed
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BRITAIN’S initial public offerings (IPO) market is poised to open up again to life science companies following a surge of activity in the United States, a senior industry figure has said.

Glenn Crocker, chief executive of business incubator operator BioCity, told a funding conference in Newhouse, Lanarkshire yesterday that floating companies on the stock market would also help to attract private investment into the market in Scotland.

Stock markets dried up as a source of funding for life science companies following the 2008 financial crisis, but figures reveal flotations are beginning to happen again across “the Pond”.

Data from financial services firm Burrill & Co shows America enjoyed its busiest week over the summer for biotech IPOs since 2000, with 29 companies floating in the first half of 2013, up from 11 a year earlier.

Crocker said: “My former colleagues at Ernst & Young in the US have seen a massive increase in IPOs.

“We know that what happens in the US flows through to the rest of the world.

“IPOs are important because, at the moment, we see business plan after business plan that includes a trade sale after three to five years and there just aren’t enough trade buyers out there to buy all of these businesses.”

Scotland has seen previous waves of life science companies floating on the stock market, with Alva-based medical testing kit maker Omega Diagnostics and Dunfermline-based eye scanner producer Optos retaining their listings.

Other firms have since disappeared from the market, with Angel Biotechnology falling into administration in January, Axis-Shield being taken over by Alere and ProStrakan being swallowed up by KHK, both in 2011.

In the past, Edinburgh-based device maker Aircraft Medical and Aberdeen-based anti-fungal developer NovaBiotics have each been linked with IPOs.

NovaBiotics last month signed a licensing deal with New York-listed Taro and chief executive Deborah O’Neil told The Scotsman that an IPO was still an option for the company. Aircraft Medical did not return calls for comment last night.

Crocker added: “IPOs are important because they create an exit for early-stage investors and can attract other private money into Scotland because it stimulates interest in the sector.”

About 180 delegates attended the Funding Fundamentals for Life Science Entrepreneurs conference at BioCity Scotland, the incubation centre opened last year in the former Merck drug factory at Newhouse.

Crocker also hailed the news that Edinburgh-based Roslin Cells has secured a deal to open a £2 million stem cell bank with the Cell Therapy Catapult, one of the bodies set up by the UK government to speed up commercialisation of ideas.

The cell bank will be used by academics and researchers in industry to help develop treatments and will speed up the move into clinical trials.

l Shares in Omega Diagnostics fell 12 per cent yesterday after the Alva-based diagnostic testing kit maker warned it was experiencing delays in taking its CD4 test for HIV-Aids from the Burnet Institute in Australia to full commercial production. The stock fell 2p to close at 14.75p.