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SK Biopharmaceuticals IPO Tabbed to Raise $850 Million

Shares of South Korean company scheduled to start trading in January followed by launch of its first US drug

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Barry Cohen
Dec 02, 2019
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A South Korean pharmaceutical company plans to go public next month in an offering aimed at raising $850 million. The initial public offering comes on the heels of the Food and Drug Administration's approval of the company’s epilepsy drug. Last week, GuruFocus reported that another Asian company, Beijing-based BeiGene (

BGNE, Financial), became the first Chinese company to get FDA approval of a drug discovered in that country. Now SK Biopharmaceuticals is poised to become the first South Korean company to independently discover, develop and launch a drug in the U. S.

FiercePharma reported that SK Bio plans to list its shares in January and has selected Citigroup and NH Investment & Securities as advisers.

Last week, the FDA approved Xcopri, which will be marketed by SK Biopharmaceuticals’ U.S. subsidiary, SK Life Science, to treat partial-onset seizures in adults. SK Life plans to launch the medication next year, executives told FiercePharma. The drug’s debut will be backed by the company’s large marketing organization and a sales force numbering 100 to 125 reps.

Epilepsy is a common neurological disorder characterized by seizures. It’s estimated there are about 3 million adults in the U.S. living with epilepsy and approximately 60% have partial-onset seizures, which begin in just one part of the brain. People with epilepsy are at risk for accidents and other health complications, including falling, drowning, depression and sudden unexplained death in epilepsy. SK said approximately 40% of adults with partial-onset seizures have inadequate control of their seizures, even after treatment with two anti-epileptic drugs.

SK Life Science's Chief Commercial Officer Sebby Borriello said Xcopri is likely to be well received by doctors, who are reportedly have patients already lined up to receive the treatment.

According to a FiercePharma article, the FDA approved the oral med based on two phase 2 studies showing it cut seizure frequency compared with placebo. In the maintenance phase of the studies, nearly 20% of patients experienced no seizures, or what Chief Medical Officer Marc Kamin called “seizure freedom.”

Pulse News reported that at a JPMorgan conference last year, the company said it was going to be listed on the main Korea Stock Exchange instead of Nasdaq. Market analysts say SK Bio would be worth over $4.4 billion after its shares start trading.

The company plans to concentrate its research and development efforts to target diseases that affect hundreds of thousands of patients. It has pipeline candidates in Lennox-Gastaut syndrome, ADHD, schizophrenia and more.

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