Bullish biotech market propels Pliant to $144M IPO — as Novartis provides a $10M boost
After pharma partner Novartis boosted its IPO with a $10 million private placement, Pliant Therapeutics has wrapped its journey to the Nasdaq on a high note.
Pliant had penciled in a $86 million raise back in May. But as has become the norm in recent months, that initial number has turned out to be a mere placeholder, making way for the final haul of $144 million.
The South San Francisco biotech did so by pricing at $16, the high end of the range, while bringing the number of shares offered up to 9 million.
Novartis had led the $100 million Series C that immediately preceded the IPO filing. The two companies are allied on an integrin inhibitor designed to tackle fibrosis related to NASH, based off research done by scientific co-founder Dean Sheppard.
But blocking TGF-β activation — which is at the core of what Pliant’s drugs do — also holds potential in cancer and muscular dystrophy, as execs spelled out in the S-1. For the former, the idea is to shut down the tumor’s ability to reduce inflammation and make it more susceptible to checkpoint therapies. For the latter, they are zeroing in on a target they say is upregulated in diseased muscle cells.
While Pliant started out firmly behind Biogen in developing PLN-74809 for idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis, the frontrunning antibody has turned out to be a flop — a failure that CEO Bernard Coulie insisted wouldn’t translate to its small molecule candidate.
The company is recruiting for a pair of Phase IIa trials in IPF and expects to begin another Phase IIa in PSC soon, although recruitment might admittedly be delayed due to Covid-19.
Pliant expects to begin trading on Friday under the symbol $PLRX.