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Originally published January 23, 2014 at 1:57 PM | Page modified January 24, 2014 at 7:12 AM

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Bothell biotech Cocrystal goes public via merger

Cocrystal Discovery of Bothell is the latest biotechnology company to go public, but don’t look for it on the Nasdaq or NYSE just yet.


Seattle Times deputy business editor

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Cocrystal Discovery of Bothell is the latest biotechnology company to go public, but don’t look for it on the Nasdaq or NYSE just yet.

Although its financial backers and management have solid industry credentials, the early-stage biotech went public by merging with a shell company called Biozone Pharmaceuticals that trades over the counter.

Biozone, which absorbed Cocrystal on Jan. 2, intends to change its name and stock ticker “in the coming months,” the company said in a statement Thursday.

Currently trading as BZNE, the stock closed Thursday at 62 cents a share, giving the company a market capitalization of $55 million after accounting for recently issued shares.

Cocrystal was founded in 2008 by former Icos executive Gary Wilcox, and in recent years has been backed by the likes of Teva Pharmaceuticals and Phillip Frost, Teva’s chairman and also the chairman of Opko Health.

Opko, a pharmaceutical and diagnostics company based in Miami, was Biozone’s largest shareholder before the Cocrystal deal, and Frost also owns a large stake. Biozone said Thursday it raised $2.75 million from accredited investors including Opko.

Cocrystal aims to develop “oral, once-a-day, broad spectrum drug candidates” against hepatitis C and several other viral diseases.

In addition to Wilcox, credited with leading the Icos team that developed the erectile-dysfunction drug Cialis, it boasts as chief scientist Roger Kornberg, a Stanford University medical-school professor who was awarded the 2006 Nobel Prize in chemistry.

Wilcox is now the public company’s chairman and CEO.

There are times when the conventional approach to going public — an initial public offering — has been closed to biotechs because of marketwide or industry-specific concerns.

But the final quarter of 2013 saw six young biotechs go public, raising a collective $487 million, according to the National Venture Capital Association.

By contrast, two attempts by local biotechs to gain a Nasdaq stock listing via merger have failed in recent years.

Last month, Seattle-based Theraclone’s planned merger with PharmAthene, a Maryland biotech, was called off the day before a vote to seal the deal, after federal funding for a Theraclone clinical trial fell through.

Allozyne, also of Seattle, dropped plans to merge with publicly traded Poniard Pharmaceuticals of San Francisco when the companies concluded their combination would not qualify for a listing on the Nasdaq Capital Market, which was one condition of the deal.

Rami Grunbaum: 206-464-8541 or rgrunbaum@seattletimes.com



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