AlloVir tests how much an antiviral biotech can reap in a pandemic stock market
The pandemic stock market has proven fruitful for virtually any type of biotech. Now a 7-year-old cell therapy startup will see how much it can yield for a company that specializes in fighting viruses.
AlloVir, a company that until 2019 largely lived off grant money, has filed for a $100 million IPO to back its line of off-the-shelf, virus-fighting T cells. Although in normal circumstances, $100 million could be a solid return for a biotech that got its first major round of funding only last year, we’ll have to wait to see how much the company ultimately earns. As Covid-19 has sent investor money scurrying to almost anyone in drug development, every single biotech to go public this year has prized above their midpoint or upsized their offering, according to Renaissance Capital, sometimes dramatically so.
Founded in 2013 out of Baylor College of Medicine’s Center for Cell and Gene Therapy, AlloVir emerged with a splash last year after ex-Alexion chief David Hallal made it the first portfolio company for ElevateBio, his startup focused on accelerating innovative cell and gene therapies. Hallal led a $120 million round for the biotech and became its CEO.
The idea behind AlloVir is to create what CSO Ann Leen has called “an immune system in a dish.” T cells are extracted from healthy volunteers, expanded in the lab, and then given to immuno-compromised patients to help them fend off infections they would otherwise not be able to. Their programs span 12 different viruses, and their lead candidate Viralym-M is meant to protect against BK virus, cytomegalovirus, adenovirus, Epstein-Barr virus, and human herpesvirus.
The company has already tested Viralym-M in one trial on patients who were immune-compromised from a stem cell transplant, and reported a “93% clinical response rate.” The IPO proceeds will help push that drug through Phase II and Phase III.
It will also help advance four other candidates for other viruses, including — because no biotech with antiviral technology would be complete without one now — a SARS-CoV-2 program that is supposed to enter a proof-of-concept study later this year.