Biocatalyst specialist Codexis files IPO

By Nick Taylor

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: Bristol-myers squibb

US-based biotech company Codexis has filed an initial public
offering (IPO), the first step towards becoming a public company.

Codexis is hoping to raise $100m by floating the company, with the money being used as working capital and to invest in furthering development of its biocatalysts. Biocatalysts have a lot of potential for applications within pharmaceutical manufacturing. Unlike their chemical counterparts they operate at lower temperatures and pressures and consequently require less expensive, specialist machinery. In addition biocatalysts do not produce the same levels of wasteful by-products as traditional chemical processes. The production of by-products is reduced by altering the genetic makeup of the enzymes, creating bespoke tools for specific tasks. Lower energy costs and less waste should ensure that biocatalysts provide a greener method of production for the pharmaceutical industry. The characteristics of biocatalysts should serve to drive down setup and operating costs for pharmaceutical manufacturers. Beyond this Codexis believes that its "technology platform can enable the production of products that are currently impossible to produce economically at commercial scale​". Codexis' technology certainly seems to appeal to big pharma with Pfizer, Merck, Schering-Plough and Bristol-Myers Squibb signing agreements since 2003. Some of this popularity may be attributed to Codexis' biocatalysts capability to produce chirally pure intermediates. Chirality refers to two molecules, known as enantiomers, which are mirror images of each other. Enantiomers sometimes cause wildly differing effects when administered to people. The best known example is probably thalidomide, which was administered for morning sickness but one of the enantiomers caused birth defects. Consequently the ability to efficiently produce chirally pure intermediaries is valued by the pharmaceutical industry. This may serve Codexis well as it tries to navigate a stock market which has dented the aspirations of biotech companies in the past. In addition there is a belief that Codexis has chosen the right time to file an IPO, with IPO expert Tom Taulli saying "investors may get interested in alternative-materials companies like Codexis​". He added: "By all accounts, it looks like the company is in the early stages of a nice growth ramp​." Revenues doubled in 2007 to $25m but the company still made a loss of $39m last year, twice the loss in 2006. However, it estimates that the US market for enzymes will reach $2.2bn by 2010 and is clearly hoping to position itself to gain a share of this. To strengthen its position Codexis bought Biocatalytics in July 2007, with the intention of creating a "market leader in biocatalysis​". Whether the market believes this is an achievable goal remains to be seen.

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