Biotech IPO market looks to ramp back up as BMS partner Ikena and its immunometabolism therapies eye public offering
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The IPO market has cooled off a tad from its early-year momentum, when the industry raised nearly $3 billion combined in January and February. But another company has now filed to go public, one that saw interest from the dealmakers at Celgene before its acquisition by Bristol Myers Squibb.
Ikena Oncology, formerly known as Kyn Therapeutics, submitted its S-1 paperwork Friday penciling in a $100 million to jump to Nasdaq. The company’s lead in-house candidate has not yet reached the clinic, but it’s working with BMS and Merck on a couple tumor microenvironment programs that have already hit Phase I.
Ikena plans to list under the ticker $IKNA.
Based out of Boston, Ikena got started with a $49 million Series A back in 2017, pulling in funds from high-profile backers like OrbiMed and Atlas Ventures to advance its immunometabolism therapies to treat cancer. The idea is to leverage metabolic pathways and the broken-down molecules that result from the body’s metabolism into suppressing the body’s immune system.
In January 2019, shortly after the Celgene-BMS deal was announced, then-Kyn announced it had signed on to a collaboration with the pharma promising $80 million upfront. At the time, the agreement also included an undisclosed amount of equity, but Friday’s S-1 detailed that Celgene acquired a roughly 8% stake in Ikena for about $15 million.
That makes up 15,260,501 total shares for BMS, Ikena said in the S-1. As a result, BMS’s stake could be worth more than $200 million should Ikena price anywhere above $13.11. Though likely pocket change for a company that bought out Celgene for $74 billion, the figure still represents a not-insignificant amount of money for a biotech with only preclinical and early-stage assets.
Ikena’s lead in-house program is IK-930, an oral small molecule inhibitor of a transcription factor known as TEAD, or the transcriptional enhanced associate domain. It deals with Hippo pathway mutations, with Ikena hoping the candidate can help regulate polarity, proliferation and tissue homeostasis, among other things, in solid tumors. Ikena plans to submit an IND for IK-930 in the second half of 2021.
For the BMS-partnered programs, Ikena is dealing with TDO and IDO, although indirectly. The biotech developed compounds that it says can degrade kynurenine or antagonize the aryl hydrocarbon receptor to prevent their binding, respectively, resulting in broad immune suppression. For the AHR program, currently in Phase I, Ikena is going after some bladder cancer indications, while the kynurenine target is still preclinical and currently not disclosed.
And in their collaboration with Merck, Ikena is pairing one of their candidates with Keytruda to target EP4 in certain colorectal cancers.