Bio­phar­ma IPO boom yields buoy­ant biotech pub­lic de­buts

The past week has seen a smor­gas­bord of big­ger-than-ex­pect­ed bio­phar­ma IPO de­buts led by Chi­nese biotech Leg­end, as in­vestors put their chips on the in­dus­try that is ex­pect­ed to be the tick­et out of the pro­tract­ed Covid-19 cri­sis — amid a broad­er mar­ket that is com­ing back to life with US busi­ness­es grad­u­al­ly re­open­ing.

The J&J-part­nered com­pa­ny not on­ly emerged with one of the largest pub­lic rais­es in biotech his­to­ry clock­ing in meaty $424 mil­lion, but saw its shares $LEGN soar more than 60% on its first day of trad­ing.

Leg­end — which si­lenced skep­tics such as ri­val Blue­bird bio’s Nick Leschly by earn­ing the part­ner­ship with J&J in an $350-mil­lion up­front deal for its CAR-T ther­a­py — had orig­i­nal­ly filed for a healthy $350 mil­lion IPO, based on a range of $18-$20. But they man­aged to rake in $23 per share, set­ting the stage for a wind­fall that eclipsed mam­moth rais­es from peers in­clud­ing Juno and Gala­pa­gos, but short of Mod­er­na’s record-set­ting $600 mil­lion in 2018.

Leg­end’s lead ex­per­i­men­tal drug, pur­posed as the last line of de­fense for pa­tients with re­lapsed and re­frac­to­ry mul­ti­ple myelo­ma, is ex­pect­ed to be put un­der reg­u­la­to­ry re­view in the sec­ond half of 2020.

Oth­er biotech per­for­mances were al­so buoy­ant, ei­ther by pric­ing above the range or thanks to up­sized of­fer­ings.

No­var­tis-backed Pli­ant Ther­a­peu­tics, for in­stance, had pen­ciled in a $86 mil­lion raise back in May. But that ini­tial es­ti­mate, much like a clutch of oth­ers in re­cent weeks, was over­shad­owed with its ac­tu­al haul: $144 mil­lion. It priced at the high end of its range at $16, but sized up the to­tal shares of­fered to 9 mil­lion.

The South San Fran­cis­co biotech, which is al­lied with the Swiss drug­mak­er on an in­te­grin in­hibitor de­signed to tack­le fi­bro­sis as­so­ci­at­ed with NASH on the ba­sis of re­search con­duct­ed by sci­en­tif­ic co-founder Dean Shep­pard, raised $100 mil­lion ahead of the IPO in a round led by No­var­tis. The com­pa­ny’s tech­nol­o­gy, which al­so holds promise in fields such as on­col­o­gy and mus­cu­lar dy­s­tro­phy, is fo­cused on TGF-β ac­ti­va­tion. Flaunt­ing a $577 mil­lion mar­ket cap, Pli­ant $PLRX fin­ished its first day of trad­ing up a healthy 39%.

Neigh­bor­ing biotech Ap­plied Mol­e­c­u­lar Trans­port al­so up­sized its of­fer­ing gen­er­at­ing a $154 mil­lion yield, well above its ini­tial $100 mil­lion es­ti­mate. The com­pa­ny, which jumped on the IPO band­wag­on per­haps more out of ne­ces­si­ty than am­bi­tion af­ter de­clar­ing sub­stan­tial doubts about its abil­i­ty to con­tin­ue as a go­ing con­cern at the end of the first quar­ter, has an in­flam­ma­to­ry-dis­ease fo­cused pipeline.

Its lead drug, AMT-101, is an IL-10 ag­o­nist en­gi­neered to tamp down in­flam­ma­tion in au­toim­mune dis­or­ders such as ul­cer­a­tive col­i­tis and rheuma­toid arthri­tis. Shares of the ear­ly-stage drug de­vel­op­er, found­ed and led by life sci­ences con­sul­tant Tahir Mah­mood, rose $AMTI 28% on its first day, grant­i­ng it a re­spectable half a bil­lion dol­lar mar­ket cap.

Fi­nal­ly, the de­but for the first Swedish com­pa­ny to list on Nas­daq in 15 years al­so reaped gains ahead of the topline read­out of its Phase III drug ex­pect­ed by the end of this year. The com­pa­ny, Cal­lid­i­tas Ther­a­peu­tics, was ini­tial­ly eye­ing a $75 mil­lion raise but up­sized its deal to raise $90 mil­lion.

The com­pa­ny’s lead drug, Ne­fe­con, is an oral for­mu­la­tion of the cor­ti­cos­teroid budes­onide li­censed from Up­p­sala Uni­ver­si­ty. The biotech has been de­vel­op­ing the drug for use in an or­phan au­toim­mune re­nal dis­ease known as IgA nephropa­thy (IgAN). En­gi­neered as an im­muno­sup­pres­sant, the drug is de­signed to keep pa­tients from pro­gress­ing to end-stage re­nal dis­ease. Shares of the com­pa­ny $CALT ticked up about 1% on its first day, mark­ing a $476 mil­lion mar­ket cap.

IDC: Life Sci­ences Firms Must Em­brace Dig­i­tal Trans­for­ma­tion Now

Pre-pandemic, the life sciences industry had settled into a pattern. The average drug took 12 years and $2.9 billion to bring to market, and it was an acceptable mode of operations, according to Nimita Limaye, Research Vice President for Life Sciences R&D Strategy and Technology at IDC.

COVID-19 changed that, and served as a proof-of-concept for how technology can truly help life sciences companies succeed and grow, Limaye said. She recently spoke about industry trends at Egnyte’s Life Sciences Summit 2022. You should watch the entire session, free and on-demand, but here’s a brief recap of why she’s urging life sciences companies to embrace digital transformation.

Tom Barnes, Orna Therapeutics CEO

UP­DAT­ED: 'We have failed to fail': Mer­ck gam­bles $250M cash on a next-gen ap­proach to mR­NA — af­ter punt­ing its big al­liance with Mod­er­na

Merck went in deep on its collaboration with Moderna on new mRNA programs, and dropped them all over time, including their RSV partnership. But after writing off what turned out as one of the most successful infectious disease players in the business, Merck is coming in this morning with a new preclinical alliance — this time embracing a biotech that hopes to eventually outdo the famously successful mRNA in a new run at vaccines and therapeutics.

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Joel Dudley, new partner at Innovation Endeavors (Bosch Health Campus)

For­mer Google CEO’s VC is mak­ing a big­ger push in­to the biotech world, hir­ing promi­nent Ther­a­nos skep­tic

Venture capital firm Innovation Endeavors has mainly had its focus on investments across the tech space, but it has been slowly turning its attention to the biotech world. Now, a new partner is coming into the fold showing that its interest in biotech is likely to grow further.

The Silicon Valley-based company, which is headed up by former Google CEO Eric Schmidt, has brought on Joel Dudley as a partner. According to Dudley’s LinkedIn page, he is joining Innovation Endeavors after serving as the chief science officer of biotech startup Tempus Labs since 2020.

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Bayer's first DTC ad campaign for chronic kidney disease drug Kerendia spells out its benefits

Bay­er aims to sim­pli­fy the com­plex­i­ties of CKD with an ABC-themed ad cam­paign

Do you know the ABCs of CKD in T2D? Bayer’s first ad campaign for Kerendia tackles the complexity of chronic kidney disease with a play on the acronym (CKD) and its connection to type 2 diabetes (T2D).

Kerendia was approved last year as the first and only non-steroidal mineralocorticoid receptor antagonist to treat CKD in people with type 2 diabetes.

In the TV commercial launched this week, A is for awareness, B is for belief and C is for cardiovascular, explained in the ad as awareness of the connection between type 2 and kidney disease, belief that something can be done about it, and cardiovascular events that may be reduced with treatment.

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James Mock, incoming CFO at Moderna

Mod­er­na taps new CFO from PerkinElmer af­ter for­mer one-day CFO oust­ed

When Moderna hired a new CFO last year,  it didn’t expect to see him gone after only one day. Today the biotech named his — likely much more vetted — replacement.

The mRNA company put out word early Wednesday that after the untimely departure of then brand-new CFO Jorge Gomez, it has now found a replacement in James Mock, the soon-to-be former CFO at diagnostics and analytics company PerkinElmer.

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Etleva Kadilli, director of UNICEF’s supply division

GSK lands first-ever UNICEF con­tract for malar­ia vac­cine worth $170M

GSK has landed a new first from UNICEF the first-ever contract for malaria vaccines, worth up to $170 million for 18 million vaccine doses distributed over the next three years.

The vaccine, known as Mosquirix or RTS,S, won WHO’s backing last October after a controversial start, but UNICEF said these doses will potentially save thousands of lives every year.

“We hope this is just the beginning,” Etleva Kadilli, director of UNICEF’s supply division, said. “Continued innovation is needed to develop new and next-generation vaccines to increase available supply, and enable a healthier vaccine market. This is a giant step forward in our collective efforts to save children’s lives and reduce the burden of malaria as part of wider malaria prevention and control programmes.”

Joe Jonas (Photo by Anthony Behar/Sipa USA)(Sipa via AP Images)

So­lo Jonas broth­er car­ries Merz's new tune in Botox ri­val cam­paign

As the lyrics of his band’s 2019 pop-rock single suggest, Joe Jonas is only human — and that means even he gets frown lines. The 33-year-old singer-songwriter is Merz’s newest celebrity brand partner for its Botox rival Xeomin, as medical aesthetics brands target a younger audience.

Merz kicked off its “Beauty on Your Terms” campaign on Tuesday, featuring the Jonas brother in a video ad for its double-filtered anti-wrinkle injection Xeomin.

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Marisol Peron, Genmab SVP of communications and corporate affairs

Gen­mab launch­es cor­po­rate cam­paign am­pli­fy­ing its ‘knock your socks off’ an­ti­bod­ies

Genmab often talks about its “knock-your-socks-off” antibodies — and now the term is getting its own logo and corporate campaign.

The teal and purple logo for the acronym KYSO — Genmab pronounces it “ky-so” — debuts on Wednesday and comes on the heels of Genmab’s newly announced 2030 vision. That aspiration aims to expand Genmab’s drug development beyond oncology to include other serious diseases, while also doubling down on its own drug development.

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Kate Haviland, Blueprint Medicines CEO

Blue­print met all its end­points in bid for ex­pand­ed Ay­vak­it la­bel — but stock trends low­er any­way

Blueprint Medicines announced this morning that the second part of its study on Ayvakit in non-advanced systemic mastocytosis (SM) — a rare disease in which a type of white blood cells known as mast cells builds up — met all endpoints, but the biopharma left key questions unanswered.

In 212 patients, with 141 in the treatment arm and 71 in the control arm, patients who got Ayvakit saw an average 15.6-point decrease in their symptom scores compared to a 9.2-point decrease in the placebo arm at 24 weeks. In an extension study, those on Ayvakit saw their symptom scores drop by 20.2 points by week 48.