July 12 (Reuters) - French gene therapy company GenSight Biologics said on Tuesday it had raised 40 million euros ($44 million) in an initial public offering, in the latest sign of growing interest in the technology to fix faulty genes.
The Paris IPO was priced at 8 euros a share, which was at the lower end of the previously indicated range of 7.80 to 9.20 euros. The issue is the largest French biotech IPO so far this year and may be increased to 45.9 million euros if an over-allotment option is fully exercised.
Bernard Gilly, founder and chief executive, said the IPO's reception was rewarding given "a difficult stock market environment".
GenSight is developing treatments for neurodegenerative eye disorders and diseases of the central nervous system. Its most advanced product, for Leber's Hereditary Optic Neuropathy, is potentially two years away from filing for regulatory approval in Europe and the United States.
Early investors in GenSight include Novartis, Abingworth, Versant, Medixci, FBIMR and Bpifrance Participations.
Research into gene therapy goes back a quarter of a century but has experienced many setbacks, including the high-profile death of an American patient in 1999 and some disastrous clinical trial results in the late 1990s and early 2000s.
Now, though, optimism is building, helped by the discovery of better ways to carry replacement genes into cells.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has yet to approve any gene therapies but Europe has approved two -- a treatment from GlaxoSmithKline for a rare immune disorder in babies and one from Uniqure for a serious blood condition. ($1 = 0.9026 euros) (Reporting by Ben Hirschler; Editing by Ruth Pitchford)
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