N.C. diagnostics firm LipoScience files for $86M IPO

News | 06. 24. 2011


Diagnostics company LipoScience aims to become North Carolina’s next public company.

Raleigh, North Carolina-based LipoScience has filed with securities regulators plans to raise up to $86.2 million in an initial public stock offering. It’s the second time LipoScience has flirted with a public stock offering. The company filed IPO plans in 2001, only to withdraw them in 2002 due to market conditions. But recent market conditions have improved; LipoScience’s IPO would follow the Durham company Tranzyme Pharma‘s (NASDAQ:TZYM) $48 million public offering in April.

LipoScience plans to use proceeds from its stock offering to expand its sales and marketing and fund continued R&D for new tests to supplement an already commercialized blood test to gauge the risk of cardiovascular disease. LipoScience is targeting the cholesterol testing market, which represents an estimated 75 million tests each year in the United States.

Last year, LipoScience recorded more than 6 million orders for its lipoprotein test and the company reports that from 2006 to 2010, test orders have increased at a compound annual growth rate of approximately 30 percent. That growth has been helped by insurance industry acceptance of the test. The NMR LipoProfile test is covered by a number of payors including Medicare, TRICARE, WellPoint, United HealthCare and several Blue Cross Blue Shield affiliates.

“We plan to significantly increase our geographic presence across the United States to expand market awareness and penetration of the NMR LipoProfile test, with the goal of ultimately becoming a clinical standard of care,” the company said in the filing.

LipoScience’s proprietary blood test counts the number of lipoprotein particles in a blood sample in order to gauge cardiovascular risks. LipoScience’s patented technology uses nuclear magnetic resonance to test for lipoproteins, which the company says are a better measure of cardiovascular risk than cholesterol levels.

The testing technology was developed at North Carolina State University by biochemistry professor James Otvos, who is now the company’s chief scientific officer.Otvos founded LipoScience in 1994 and by 1999, the company had developed tests to sell to clinicians and diagnostic laboratories. Investors in the company include Durham, North Carolina-based Pappas Ventures and Three Arch Partners, a Bay Area venture firm.

When LipoScience pulled its IPO plans nine years ago, the company’s revenue was $18.5 million. According to LipoScience’s most recent filing, the company generated $39.3 million in 2010 revenue. The company turned a profit of $4.3 million last year. But the filing notes that although LipoScience recorded profits in 2009 and 2010, it incurred a $500,000 loss in the first quarter of 2011. The company does not expect to be profitable this year or in coming years as it expands its growth strategy for its NMR LipoProfile test and develops new diagnostics. The company is also developing tests for diabetes and other diseases.

LipoScience expects that its latest diagnostic device should raise the market potential for its blood tests even more. Right now, blood samples using LipoScience’s tests must be sent to the company’s Raleigh headquarters to complete the testing because it’s the only facility with the proper equipment. But the company has developed a machine, called Vantera, that will allow institutions or laboratory testing facilities to complete that testing at their own sites. Vantera has already been site tested at a number of facilities across the country, including the Mayo Clinic and the Cleveland Clinic. LipoScience plans to file with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration for 510(k) clearance on Vantera by the end of this year.