Erasing cancer, reviving oncolytic virus, treating a rare neuromuscular condition: Here's what you need to know about the 5 new biotechs filing for IPOs
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Last week was a busy one for biotech IPOs, with five more companies filing to go public just before the start of the weekend, including a company led by GlaxoSmithKline vet Paul Peter Tak that’s been working on oncolytic viruses for decades, and a quiet San Diego-based upstart that’s jumping into the spotlight with 11 programs coming down the pipeline. Each of them penciled in a $100 million dollar raise — but if trends continue, they could go on to raise much, much more.
Here’s what you need to know about the latest slate of biotechs vying for a spot on Wall Street.
GlaxoSmithKline vet Paul Peter Tak takes low-profile oncolytic virus player to Nasdaq
For close to two decades, the company that would eventually become Candel Therapeutics had worked under the radar on oncolytic viruses. But now that it’s emerged from stealth with a new name, wooed GlaxoSmithKline vet Paul Peter Tak to be CEO and set its first Phase III to sail, it is making good use of the limelight.
Tak — who has made the conference rounds and recruited a star-studded group of research advisors since taking the helm six months ago — has filed the paperwork to take the biotech public.
Like many of its peers, Candel says it’s shooting for a $100 million raise. But we all know it’s just the standard placeholder figure these days that doesn’t have to mean anything.
Oncolytic viruses come with a checkered history. Amgen’s Imlygic remains the only approved product in the space, standing out among a slew of failures. Still, Candel — and they’re not alone — reckons it represents “one of the most promising cancer treatment modalities today.”
The core idea is elegant: If you can direct a non-replicating virus to tumors, you can kill some cancer cells and cause enough damage to startle the immune system into action, both at the local site and to metastases. Candel’s pitch is to find the optimal virus to achieve this while adding a twist: use the virus as a vector to deliver transgenes for an enzyme, which would then convert a companion small molecule prodrug into cancer killing mode.
Founder and CSO Estuardo Aguilar-Cordova has boasted of a “comprehensive and promising” clinical data set in the past — which Tak said is also a big draw as he decided to leave his previous job at Flagship’s Kintai.
Another pull, as the S-1 revealed, might be the $2.3 million non-equity incentive plan compensation he received, boosting his pay package to $2.5 million. CFO John Canepa was also wooed with over $1 million to jump from Frequency.
“I don’t know many companies that are already Phase II and Phase III but in immunotherapy in cancer that has dosed more than 700 patients that basically come more or less out of stealth mode,” he previously told Endpoints News.
Candel’s lead candidate, CAN-2409, is an adenovirus-based product designed to be combined with the prodrug valacyclovir. A Phase III in patients with newly diagnosed localized prostate cancer is underway; the company expects to complete enrollment in the next three months and read out data in 2024. The same oncolytic virus-prodrug combo will be tested for newly diagnosed high-grade glioma within the next year.
Having bagged a modest $66.1 million from venture rounds — and burned through $48.6 million by late March — Candel plans to channel the IPO proceeds directly into those trials and future ones, as well as building a new manufacturing facility.
PBM Capital is the largest shareholder at 26.58%, but Aguilar-Cordova and chief medical officer Laura Aguilar also kept a large chunk to themselves, each holding about 16%. Other shareholders include Northpond Ventures and Tak himself. — Amber Tong
Here are the targets Bristol Myers Squibb, Roche tapped Vividion to work on
Vividion made it pretty obvious that an IPO was in the works.
The Series C that Jeff Hatfield had assembled back in February bore all the signatures of a crossover: Already backed by ARCH and Versant, Vividion gathered the $135 million raise from a dream team of A-list investors including Logos Capital, Boxer Capital, SoftBank, Avoro, BlackRock, Versant, RA Capital Management, T. Rowe Price Associates, Casdin Capital, and so on. All rooting for the approach they’re taking in cancer and immune disorder drug discovery.
And the stated ask — wait for it — is $100 million.
What might be surprising about the S-1 filing is the details the biotech has unveiled, for the first time, about the pipeline — especially the programs it’s developing on behalf of partners at Bristol Myers Squibb and Roche.
Celgene helped put Vividion on the map back in 2018 when it paid $95 million in cash to kickstart a research pact. Up until now, Hatfield had been tight-lipped about what Celgene — now part of Bristol Myers Squibb — went with as the initial program, saying only that it’s “one of a handful of Holy Grail targets in oncology and immunology.”
The first target, as it turned out, is STAT3. Described as “a downstream signal transducer from a diverse set of cytokine and growth factor receptors,” the transcription factor has been notoriously difficult to drug.
With the help of its chemoproteomic platform, Vividion wrote, it has uncovered a pocket on STAT3 that they can make orally available compounds against, thereby achieving “near complete inhibition” of STAT3. The two companies are looking at both oncology and immunology applications.
As for Roche, Vividion noted they are developing a slate of WRN inhibitors — hitting a protein that’s involved in DNA damage sensing and repair, also known as the Werner helicase.
Most of the new cash, though, will likely go toward the in-house work, featuring a focus on the KEAP1-NRF2 axis, with work underway on NRF2 mutant and addicted cancers. So far, the company has burned through $74.1 million.
ARCH, Versant and CHP stand to gain the most from the Nasdaq run, with 16%, 13.5% and 12.3% of the shares respectively, while Nextech holds 5.7%. Notably, Diego Miralles — former CEO of three crucial years who’s since moved to Flagship and settled into a new chief executive job — is also listed for a 2.7% holding (whereas Hatfield’s was not disclosed). — Amber Tong
Erasca breaks the silence with 11 programs and big plans to go public
Almost a year after expanding an already massive Series B round, Erasca has filed S-1 papers in the hopes of advancing its namesake mission: erasing cancer.
CEO Jonathan Lim launched the company back in 2018, after auctioning off his company Ignyta to Roche for a tidy $1.7 billion. For the first couple of years, Lim released few details on what the company was working on. Then at the beginning of this year, he unveiled two programs targeting proteins in a key cancer signaling pathway called RAS/MAPK.
Lim penciled in a $100 million raise — though, in the last year or so, many companies have gone on to raise much more. Last August, Erasca landed a $36 million extension on a $200 million Series B round, bringing its total raise to $300 million.
Erasca’s two clinical programs include ERAS-601, licensed from NiKand Therapeutics, and ERAS-007, acquired from ASN Product Development. They both target the RAS/MAPK pathway, which is behind as many as half of all solid tumors, according to Erasca. When the pathway becomes overactive, cancer cells can grow in an uncontrolled fashion.
ERAS-601 and ERAS-007 inhibit SHP2 and ERK, respectively: two proteins that act as “on/off switches” to the RAS/MAPK pathway. By targeting the proteins and clamping down on the signaling pathway, scientists believe they can turn the RAS/MAPK switch “off,” shutting down cancer cells’ ability to grow and proliferate.
Erasca says it has 11 programs in the works, including two preclinical candidates and seven other discovery-stage programs. The plan is to have four candidates in the clinic within the next six quarters, and file an additional IND every 12 to 18 months over the next five years.
Back in January, the company named Nektar Therapeutics vet Wei Lin as CMO. The Harvard grad previously worked at Roche/Genentech, where his team achieved three US and EU approvals for Tecentriq.
“We have assembled what we believe to be the deepest, wholly-owned or controlled RAS/MAPK pathway-focused pipeline in the industry,” the company said in its S-1. — Nicole DeFeudis
Imago looks to follow positive PhII results all the way to Wall Street
Back in November, Imago BioSciences pulled in an $80 million crossover round that CEO Hugh Rienhoff said would lead to a public debut sometime this year. On Friday, the S-1 papers landed in the SEC’s hands.
Imago penciled in a $100 million raise to create small molecules that target lysine-specific demethylase 1 (LSD1), an enzyme that plays a role in the production of blood cells in the bone marrow. The company recently read out positive Phase II results for its lead candidate, bomedemstat, in bone marrow cancers.
In the study, 10 out of 12 patients with essential thrombocythemia, a rare disorder in which the body produces too many platelets, dosed for more than six weeks showed a significant reduction of platelet counts. The drop happened while patients maintained stable hemoglobin levels, the company said.
And in a separate study in patients with advanced myelofibrosis — a type of bone cancer that disrupts the body’s normal production of blood cells — 94% of patients showed a reduction of 50% or more in symptoms. Out of 34 patients evaluated for mutant allele frequencies, the number decreased in 15 and remained the same in 16, with no new mutations in the 660 days that followed.
“The study is now fully enrolled, so we look forward to sharing our cumulative data as we continue to advance this investigational program for patients who have few therapeutic alternatives,” CMO Wan-Jen Hong said of the MF study earlier this month.
Upon unveiling the company’s Series C in November, CBO Ed Baracchini told Endpoints News that the best-case scenario would be to launch both Phase III studies in mid-2022.
According to the S-1, Imago plans on developing bomedemstat and other LSD1-targeting candidates for other indications such as polycythemia vera, hemoglobinopathies and solid tumors. — Nicole DeFeudis
Dynacure eyes public debut with Ionis-developed drug
Just over a year after completing a modest $55 million Series C round, French biotech Dynacure is looking for its own stock ticker.
The company penciled in a $100 million raise, according to its F-1.
Dynacure was founded in 2016 as part of a partnership between Ionis and a French research center called the Institute of Genetics and Molecular and Cellular Biology. While Ionis was on the verge of an approval for its blockbuster Spinraza in spinal muscular atrophy, Dynacure was looking to use antisense to treat centronuclear myopathy — a group of disorders similarly marked by muscle wasting and weakness.
People with CNM begin experiencing muscle weakness at any time from birth to early adulthood, and many die within the first 18 months of life, according to Dynacure. Patients who survive longer need intense management, including permanent ventilation, or feeding tubes.
The company’s lead candidate, DYN101, is currently in a Phase I/II trial in Europe, and researchers hope to expand the trial in the United States in the second half of this year, the F-1 states.
“Our animal data suggests that Dyn101 may be able to halt disease progression or potentially reverse it,” CEO Stéphane van Rooijen told Endpoints News in 2018.
Dynacure’s planning an interim pharmacokinetic and safety readout in the second half of 2022, with final data slated for 2023. — Nicole DeFeudis