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PKA, Danica increase stakes in biopharmaceutical firm via loan

PKA and Danica Pension have increased their existing stakes in Danish biopharmaceutical company Symphogen, with commitments to a new convertible debt facility totalling €67.5m.

They have been joined by other existing investors including Novo A/S, the investment arm of the Novo Nordisk Foundation, Danish firm Sunstone Capital – which invests in early stage life science and technology companies in Europe – and US-based Essex Woodlands Health Ventures.

Symphogen, a private company founded in 2000, develops antibody therapeutics based on antibody mixtures, allowing treatments to fight cancer more effectively, and potentially turning it from a deadly disease to a chronic condition.

The company is aiming ultimately to bring oncology products to the market itself.

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The proceeds of the loan will be used to progress Symphogen’s pipeline, specifically Sym004, an antibody mixture for colorectal cancer, currently undergoing Phase 2b clinical trials in Europe and the US.

Since its inception, the company has raised €249m in the form of equity capital.

Investors in the current financing round can convert their debt to shares at any time until end-2019.

Kirsten Drejer, founding chief executive at Symphogen, told IPE: “The financing has been structured as a loan because not all existing investors have participated, so, until the loan is converted, it does not alter the relative shareholdings.

“Furthermore, it gives investors a guaranteed return, as we are still several years away from marketing our first product.”

She said the company was now trying to identify additional investors, especially from the US, to take part in the loan facility.

PKA is investing around DKK140m (€19m) in this financing round.

Claus Jørgensen, head of equity at PKA, told IPE: “Since our first investment in Symphogen was made in 2011, the company has shown impressive results and lived up to PKA’s expectations.

“Also, the company has a strong Danish and international investor base led by Novo A/S, which allows it to develop the pipeline in an efficient way.”

The investment return over the past 10 years on PKA’s portfolio, now worth DKK215bn, is 7.4% p.a., with a good contribution from the private equity portfolio, Jørgensen said.

Symphogen is one of the few unlisted companies in PKA’s portfolio with a directly held stake.

Most of PKA’s investments in unlisted companies are made through funds and co-investments with these funds.

However, Jørgensen said PKA had no current plans to make similar investments in other healthcare companies.

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