5 cash-hungry biotechs crowd into Nasdaq in search of a $600M-plus windfall
The queue to get into Nasdaq just got a lot longer.
On Friday after the markets closed 5 more biotech’s tossed their S-1s into the mix, marking at least 22 IPO pitches for the year to date. That falls in line next to the 20 biotechs that had gone public by this time last year — which marked another busy year for public market debuts and the cash they spin for R&D work.
We broke it out on a case-by-case basis:
Vivek Ramaswamy is a creature of habit. He creates drug developers under his umbrella company Roivant, beefs up their pipelines with drugs abandoned or gathering dust on Big Pharma shelves, hires an experienced leader to run the shop, and then steers the firm to an IPO. After taking Axovant and Myovant public — in a pair of IPOs that raised more than half a billion dollars — Dermavant is being groomed for a public debut. After buying tapinarof from GSK $GSK, the biotech is gunning for a $100 million IPO, under the symbol $DRMT, according to a filing posted on Friday.
After raising about $299 million in January, startup mill BridgeBio is priming itself for a $225 million IPO. The Palo Alto, California-based company has birthed a plethora of startups such as Eidos, Navire, QED Therapeutics and PellePharm, to focus on genetic diseases, encompassing dermatology, oncology, cardiology, neurology, endocrinology, renal disease, and ophthalmology. Run by Neil Kumar, BridgeBio now has 16 programs, of which 4 are in or approaching late-stage development. KKR owns a 10% stake in BridgeBio, which plans to list under the symbol $BBIO, according to a filing posted on Friday.
Banking in a behemoth $125 million last September — in its third round of financing — the preclinical biotech Atreca is aiming for a $100 million public debut. Run by John Orwin — who was in charge of Relypsa until its $1.5 billion takeover — the company is focused on immunotherapies, by using tissue samples from cancer patients to gather ideal antibodies, employing B cells as their sounding board, for use in solid tumors.
The Redwood City, California-based player expects to submit an FDA application to test its lead experimental drug, ATRC-101, in humans in late 2019, and kick off an early-stage trial in early 2020. Baker Brothers Life Sciences and its affiliates own 22.8% of the company’s class A shares — and all of its B shares — while other big shareholders include: Hadley Harbor Master Investors (12.5%), Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation (9%) and Boxer Capital (6.9%). Atreca is planning to list under the symbol $BCEL, according to a filing posted on Friday.
Wading deeper into the biotech waters, former Columbia professor Asa Abeliovich is taking his Parkinson’s gene therapy project to the Nasdaq, looking to raise $100 million for Prevail Therapeutics after closing a $50 million round just two months ago.
Founded in 2017 in partnership with OrbiMed and The Silverstein Foundation, the New York-based company vows to develop a broader set of AAV gene therapies for neurodegenerative diseases, with a focus on genetically defined patient populations. In Parkinson’s, that means targeting the GBA1 mutation — an underlying driver of the (less common) neurological manifestations of a common lysosomal storage disorder known as Gaucher disease. Additional programs include PR006 for frontotemporal dementia with GRN mutation and PR004 for the treatment of synucleinopathies, preclinical studies of which are to be funded by the IPO windfall.
Abeliovich, who helped co-found high profile Alzheimer’s biotech Alector, owns 10.1% of the stock. But OrbiMed has the lion’s share here: Its 48.6% ownership dwarfs Regenxbio’s 9.1%, RA Capital’s 8.1%, Pontifax’ 5.9% or EcoR1 Capital’s 5.8%. Prevail plans to list as $PRVL.
It’s barely been a year since Akero threw its NASH candidate into the crowded space from out of left field. In the months that followed, it added $70 million to its original $65 million cash reserve, wooed Gilead vet Andrew Cheng as CEO, and secured an IND for the next phase in the clinic. And if it all goes according to plan, it will be celebrating its biotech anniversary with $86 million in IPO money.
In the S-1, Akero once again outlined the case for its FGF21 analog — in-licensed from Amgen $AMGN — in disrupting disease progression, starting from the fat accumulation that is believed to cause cell stress. After treating 83 type 2 diabetes patients with the drug, investigators observed better plasma lipoprotein levels and insulin sensitivity, indicating “the potential of AKR-001 to redirect calories away from the liver, reduce liver fat, alleviate hepatocyte stress, inhibit inflammation and resolve fibrosis in patients with NASH, as well as reduce susceptibility to cardiovascular disease” — a major cause of death for these patients.
The biotech, now located in San Francisco, also disclosed that Amgen gained a 7.8% stake from the deal in addition to the $5 million upfront payment. Clinical milestones total $40 million and Akero could pay $75 million more if the drug makes it to the market. Apple Tree Partners is the biggest shareholder here with 18.5%, while Atlas, venBio and Versant each claims 15.2%. The proceeds will go toward a planned Phase IIa trial confirming this theory as well as manufacturing and other efforts to beef up the clinical pipeline.