Conatus Pharmaceuticals Files for $69M IPO to Advance Liver Drugs

Xconomy San Diego — 

San Diego’s Conatus Pharmaceuticals, founded in 2005 and developing new drugs to treat chronic liver disease, plans to raise as much as $69 million through an IPO, according to a regulatory filing unsealed Friday.

The biotech plans to take advantage of reduced reporting requirements as an “emerging growth company” under the JOBS Act of 2012, and had submitted its IPO confidentially last month for regulatory review. Conatus plans to list on the Nasdaq market under the symbol CNAT. The company acquired its lead compound, emricasan, from Pfizer in 2010, where the drug was under investigation for preventing fibrosis and inflammation in chronic liver disease, according to the filing.

Pfizer halted work on emricasan in 2008, after its scientists observed inflammatory infiltrates in mice during a preclinical study in 2007. Scientists have been debating whether the appearance of inflammatory infiltrates might somehow contribute the formation of tumors, and U.S. regulators put a clinical hold on the drug after Pfizer reported its observations. Conatus said it conducted a thorough review, including an additional carcinogenicity study of emricasan that was completed in 2012.

In its filing, the company says, “There was no evidence of drug-related tumorgenicity in our carcinogenicity study, and after further discussions with the FDA, we were cleared in January 2013 to proceed with our planned HCV-POLT trial, formally lifting emricasan from clinical hold in the United States.”

Conatus said it has raised about $60 million since inception, and has not generated any revenues to date. The company has incurred significant operating losses, and had an accumulated deficit of more than $61 million as of March 31. The company reported a consolidated net loss of $8.7 million in 2012 and $12 million in 2011.