CRISPR upstart ticks off another box on the IPO prep list as RA, SVB Leerink step in on a mega-raise
With 2020 set to bring the curtain down on a biotech IPO boom unlike anything we’ve seen before, you have to wonder which companies are setting the stage to try and follow up with their own S-1 in 2021. And Locanabio may be in the mix after today.
The San Diego-based biotech just brought in a mega-round, always helpful ahead of any IPO. In this case, that’s $100 million from a slate of investors that’s adding groups with a well-known taste for IPO strategies: Vida Ventures, RA Capital, Invus, Acuta Capital and an investment arm of market maker SVB Leerink. Rajul Jain, an MD who had been on the executive team at Kite before joining Vida with Arie Belldegrun, is moving to the Locanabio board.
They’re all jumping on a platform play set up by a familiar lineup of A list backers: ARCH, Temasek, Lightstone Ventures, UCB Ventures and GV (the VC formerly known as Google Ventures). They were inspired to invest in a company that uses CRISPR Cas9 to target faulty RNA, a concept that was hatched by UC San Diego scientists David Nelles and Gene Yeo.
The biotech brought in Jim Burns as CEO about a year ago — an old hand at the drug development game who jumped from a lengthy stint at Sanofi-Genzyme to Casebia and then on to Locanabio. Burns made the jump right after CRISPR Therapeutics took over full control of Casebia and its gene editing efforts. And there’s been some busy recruiting going on at Locana to fill out the executive team.
The biotech is also working directly in a hot field, using gene therapy tech to deliver a protein-based gene editing approach to correcting genetic diseases with a once-and-done approach. But they don’t have any human data — though that’s not a disqualifier in this fetid environment on Wall Street.
They do, though, have a mouse study they are proud of. The team touted a new paper — “The sustained expression of Cas9 targeting toxic RNAs reverses disease phenotypes in mouse models of myotonic dystrophy” — back in September.
Locanabio’s lead program is guided to myotonic dystrophy type 1, with preclinical followups in Huntington’s disease, spinocerebellar ataxia 1, ALS and frontotemperal dementia, where they see specific genetic triggers that can be fixed.
That’s mostly the kind of story that sells well on the Street, though there’s no telling what kind of year 2021 will be as new vaccines promise to bring the pandemic to a close — in the US and Europe, in any case. Locanabio is being pointed at Wall Street with the right profile, we just need to see now how long the journey takes.