Black Di­a­mond dou­bles in val­ue hours in­to Nas­daq de­but, mark­ing hot start to the 2020 IPO run

There are few al­losteric ther­a­pies ap­proved, but in­vestors seem to like the idea — and the lat­est duo to pur­sue it.

Black Di­a­mond Ther­a­peu­tics, the young on­col­o­gy com­pa­ny from Tarce­va vets David Ep­stein and Eliz­a­beth Buck, opened its IPO yes­ter­day at $19 per share. By 11:15 am, it was up to $35 per share. And, with a slight rise in the last min­utes, it closed at $39.48. That’s a 108% in­crease on its open­ing ten­der. They col­lect­ed over $200 mil­lion.  The mar­ket cap dou­bled from around $670 mil­lion to $1.3 bil­lion.

On Fri­day, right on the heels of that quick coup, Ar­cutis Bio­ther­a­peu­tics priced its IPO at $17 — the top of the range. That of­fer­ing raised $159 mil­lion through the sale of 9.4 mil­lion shares. It’s start­ing out with a mar­ket val­ue of $657 mil­lion.

The end-of-week surge sug­gests that de­spite some head­winds in­vestors still want to get in ear­ly on what they deem the most promis­ing com­pa­nies, par­tic­u­lar­ly in on­col­o­gy. That bodes well for the start of the 2020 IPO sea­son and will like­ly in­spire oth­ers to jump in­to the game ear­ly — though there’s no way to pre­dict what will hap­pen down the road. The biotech IPO win­dow has been wide open for 5 years now, mark­ing a very long stretch.

Black Di­a­mond’s first-day gain dwarfed the mean for biotech IPOs. Since the start of 2019, they’ve risen on av­er­age 16% on day one and 60% over­all, ac­cord­ing to Re­nais­sance Cap­i­tal.

Black Di­a­mond had raised mon­ey rapid­ly in the pri­vate mar­kets as well. They were the first com­pa­ny to come out of Ver­sant’s Basel-based in­cu­ba­tor and launched with an ini­tial $20 mil­lion from the ven­ture firm. With­in a month of emerg­ing from stealth mode in De­cem­ber 2018, they an­nounced an $85 mil­lion Se­ries B fund­ing. Less than a year lat­er, they net­ted an­oth­er $85 mil­lion. They then im­me­di­ate­ly filed for an IPO.

Buck and Ep­stein are far from alone in pur­su­ing al­losteric ther­a­pies for can­cer and oth­er dis­eases. No­var­tis has a Phase I pro­gram for an al­losteric SHP2 in­hibitor, Rev­o­lu­tion Med­i­cines — now pur­su­ing its own $100 mil­lion IPO –  has an al­losteric SHP2 it li­censed from Sanofi for $50 mil­lion, and back in 2016, Gilead paid Nim­bus $40o mil­lion for fir­so­co­stat, an al­losteric in­hibitor for NASH. (Which did not per­form well last year).

Black Di­a­mond is be­hind those oth­er pro­grams. They have yet to en­ter the clin­ic.

In­vestors are large­ly bet­ting on their MAP plat­form, which works to map out al­losteric mu­ta­tions across the body. Al­losteric sites are grooves away from a pro­tein’s ac­tive bind­ing site but which can nev­er­the­less af­fect the bind­ing site and the pro­tein’s over­all func­tion. A mu­ta­tion there could af­fect the pro­tein’s func­tion, po­ten­tial­ly dri­ving cer­tain can­cers. Sci­en­tists have long known about these sites, but have strug­gled un­til re­cent­ly to find them.

A com­pa­ny with promis­ing map­ping soft­ware could have a sig­nif­i­cant leg up. An­oth­er biotech try­ing to do that, Hotspot Ther­a­peu­tics, launched in 2018 with a $45 mil­lion Se­ries A.

Health­care Dis­par­i­ties and Sick­le Cell Dis­ease

In the complicated U.S. healthcare system, navigating a serious illness such as cancer or heart disease can be remarkably challenging for patients and caregivers. When that illness is classified as a rare disease, those challenges can become even more acute. And when that rare disease occurs in a population that experiences health disparities, such as people with sickle cell disease (SCD) who are primarily Black and Latino, challenges can become almost insurmountable.

Jacob Van Naarden (Eli Lilly)

Ex­clu­sives: Eli Lil­ly out to crash the megablock­buster PD-(L)1 par­ty with 'dis­rup­tive' pric­ing; re­veals can­cer biotech buy­out

It’s taken 7 years, but Eli Lilly is promising to finally start hammering the small and affluent PD-(L)1 club with a “disruptive” pricing strategy for their checkpoint therapy allied with China’s Innovent.

Lilly in-licensed global rights to sintilimab a year ago, building on the China alliance they have with Innovent. That cost the pharma giant $200 million in cash upfront, which they plan to capitalize on now with a long-awaited plan to bust up the high-price market in lung cancer and other cancers that have created a market worth tens of billions of dollars.

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So what hap­pened with No­var­tis' gene ther­a­py group? Here's your an­swer

Over the last couple of days it’s become clear that the gene therapy division at Novartis has quietly undergone a major reorganization. We learned on Monday that Dave Lennon, who had pursued a high-profile role as president of the unit with 1,500 people, had left the pharma giant to take over as CEO of a startup.

Like a lot of the majors, Novartis is an open highway for head hunters, or anyone looking to staff a startup. So that was news but not completely unexpected.

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Who are the women su­per­charg­ing bio­phar­ma R&D? Nom­i­nate them for this year's spe­cial re­port

The biotech industry has faced repeated calls to diversify its workforce — and in the last year, those calls got a lot louder. Though women account for just under half of all biotech employees around the world, they occupy very few places in C-suites, and even fewer make it to the helm.

Some companies are listening, according to a recent BIO survey which showed that this year’s companies were 2.5 times more likely to have a diversity and inclusion program compared to last year’s sample. But we still have a long way to go. Women represent just 31% of biotech executives, BIO reported. And those numbers are even more stark for women of color.

David Meek, new Mirati CEO (Marlene Awaad/Bloomberg via Getty Images)

Fresh off Fer­Gene's melt­down, David Meek takes over at Mi­rati with lead KRAS drug rac­ing to an ap­proval

In the insular world of biotech, a spectacular failure can sometimes stay on any executive’s record for a long time. But for David Meek, the man at the helm of FerGene’s recent implosion, two questionable exits made way for what could be an excellent rebound.

Meek, most recently FerGene’s CEO and a past head at Ipsen, has become CEO at Mirati Therapeutics, taking the reins from founding CEO Charles Baum, who will step over into the role of president and head of R&D, according to a release.

Rafaèle Tordjman (Jeito Capital)

Con­ti­nu­ity and di­ver­si­ty: Rafaèle Tord­j­man's women-led VC firm tops out first fund at $630M

For a first-time fund, Jeito Capital talks a lot about continuity.

Rafaèle Tordjman had spotlighted that concept ever since she started building the firm in 2018, promising to go the extra mile(s) with biotech entrepreneurs while pushing them to reach patients faster.

Coincidentally, the lack of continuity was one of the sore spots listed in a report about the European healthcare sector published that same year by the European Investment Bank — whose fund is one of the LPs, alongside the American pension fund Teacher Retirement System of Texas and Singapore’s Temasek, to help Jeito close its first fund at $630 million (€534 million). As previously reported, Sanofi had chimed in €50 million, marking its first investment in a French life sciences fund.

When ef­fi­ca­cy is bor­der­line: FDA needs to get more con­sis­tent on close-call drug ap­provals, agency-fund­ed re­search finds

In the exceedingly rare instances in which clinical efficacy is the only barrier to a new drug’s approval, new FDA-funded research from FDA and Stanford found that the agency does not have a consistent standard for defining “substantial evidence” when flexible criteria are used for an approval.

The research comes as the FDA is at a crossroads with its expedited-review pathways. The accelerated approval pathway is under fire as the agency recently signed off on a controversial new Alzheimer’s drug, with little precedent to explain its decision. Meanwhile, top officials like Rick Pazdur have called for a major push to simplify and clarify all of the various expedited pathways, which have grown to be must-haves for sponsors of nearly every newly approved drug.

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Af­ter sell­ing to Genen­tech, the old Je­cure team is back at an RNA-fo­cused start­up — and more en­thu­si­as­tic than ever

When Genentech swooped in to buy NASH-focused Jecure Therapeutics back in 2018, a handful of the startup’s executives weren’t quite ready to disperse.

It had been just three years since Jecure launched with a preclinical portfolio of NLRP3 inhibitors — and the takeover came sooner than anyone, including CEO Jeff Stafford, had expected. So he got talking with James Veal and Gretchen Bain, two serial entrepreneurs in charge of Jecure’s R&D.

Lat­est news: It’s a no on uni­ver­sal boost­ers; Pa­tient death stuns gene ther­a­py field; In­side Tril­li­um’s $2.3B turn­around; and more

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