Backed by a pioneer in BiTE tech, Harpoon marks a course for an IPO and an early display of potential

Can a next-gen BiTE devised by a pioneer in the field attract investors into an oncology IPO based almost entirely on mouse data? Harpoon Therapeutics plans to find that out in early 2019.

Patrick Baeuerle

The biotech has filed an $86 million IPO, just a few months after raising $70 million in its latest venture round. The company also spelled out some of the details in its alliance with AbbVie, which came with a $17 million upfront and hundreds of millions more in milestones on the table.

Harpoon was created in part by Patrick Baeuerle, a partner at MPM who earlier served as CSO at Micromet before it was acquired by Amgen. Baeuerle was brought into Amgen — where R&D was then run by Roger Perlmutter — after the buyout, where he headed up the final round of R&D ahead of an FDA OK for Blincyto.

Perlmutter at the time noted to me that he had long been a big fan of Baeuerle’s, “carrying a torch” for the work he was doing.

With the scientist’s help, the biotech has created a platform T cell engager tech called TriTAC which hopes to do the initial generation of BiTE’s one or two better, with a longer half life and stability that is aimed at improved efficacy and safety. 

Its lead program is in Phase I, with some initial data due soon.

Throughout 2018, that kind of profile would have been plenty to complete an IPO after raising a $70 million crossover round. Now, with markets in array, the big question is whether the biotech IPO surge can continue, or cool down considerably. 

It’s a venture-owned company. MPM controls the largest chunk of equity, with 23% of the stock. They are followed by the UBS Oncology Impact fund at 20%, New Leaf Venture Partners at 14%, Arix Bioscience at 13.7% and OrbiMed at 11.6%.

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