Four biotechs haul in $303M+ from a fresh burst of IPOs

De­spite the longest-ever US gov­ern­ment shut­down sub­du­ing IPO ac­tiv­i­ty in the first-quar­ter — health­care IPOs dom­i­nat­ed, ac­count­ing for 70% of the 20 IPOs in the re­gion, ac­cord­ing to ac­count­ing firm Ernst & Young. In­ter­est in the sec­tor has far from cooled — with four drug de­vel­op­ers fo­cus­ing on a range of con­di­tions from the ever-pop­u­lar im­muno-on­col­o­gy to fail­ure-friend­ly Alzheimer’s — set to make their pub­lic de­buts on Thurs­day.

Lieping Chen

In March, Yale spin­out NextCure laid out the blue­print for its im­muno-on­col­o­gy re­search in Na­ture Med­i­cine, af­ter se­cur­ing $40 mil­lion up­front in an R&D col­lab­o­ra­tion with Lil­ly and bring­ing its cash haul to a cool $180 mil­lion. The com­pa­ny — found­ed in 2015 by Lieping Chen, a not­ed I/O re­searcher be­hind Am­plim­mune, a com­pa­ny bought out by As­traZeneca five years ago — has now raised $75 mil­lion in an IPO. The com­pa­ny, which is poised to trade un­der the sym­bol $NXTC, of­fered 5 mil­lion shares at $15 — the mid­point of its range of $14 to $16. The Beltsville, Mary­land-based drug de­vel­op­er is fo­cus­ing on PD-L1-neg­a­tive tu­mors to help the scores of pa­tients for whom check­point in­hibitors don’t work. Its lead ex­per­i­men­tal drug — NC318 — tar­gets an im­munomod­u­la­to­ry re­cep­tor called Siglec-15 and is cur­rent­ly be­ing test­ed in a Phase I/II tri­al in pa­tients with ad­vanced or metasta­t­ic sol­id tu­mors.

Steve Dominy

With the field of Alzheimer’s drug de­vel­op­ment lit­tered with fail­ure and the amy­loid-be­ta hy­poth­e­sis all but dead, a fresh ap­proach to treat­ing the mem­o­ry-wast­ing dis­ease has gar­nered in­ter­est in Cor­texyme. The South San Fran­cis­co-based biotech is bet­ting that Por­phy­romonas gin­gi­valis — a bac­te­r­i­al pathogen as­so­ci­at­ed with chron­ic pe­ri­odon­ti­tis — could be vi­tal to com­bat­ing Alzheimer’s-re­lat­ed neu­rode­gen­er­a­tion, based on the find­ings of  UCSF psy­chi­a­trist Steve Dominy. Cor­texyme’s lead ex­per­i­men­tal drug is de­signed to in­hib­it gingi­pains — the tox­ic pro­tease se­cret­ed by P. gin­gi­valis — and is be­ing eval­u­at­ed in Phase II/III study. Backed by Pfiz­er (14.71%) and Take­da (12.32%), the com­pa­ny has now raised $75 mil­lion in an IPO. The com­pa­ny, which is set to trade un­der the sym­bol $CRTX, of­fered 4.4 mil­lion shares at $17 — the mid­point of its range of $16 to $18.

With car­dio­vas­cu­lar dis­eases im­pli­cat­ed in an es­ti­mat­ed third of all deaths, drug­mak­ers (and in­vestors) are al­ways on the hunt for new treat­ments. Cana­di­an biotech Mile­stone Phar­ma­ceu­ti­cals’ sole as­set is a nasal spray for­mu­la­tion of a cal­ci­um chan­nel block­er, which has been craft­ed to treat a rapid heart rate con­di­tion that is usu­al­ly treat­ed with in­tra­venous in­fu­sions in the ER. The hope is the rapid-on­set drug (cur­rent­ly in late-stage de­vel­op­ment) can help pa­tients re­solve sud­den episodes of parox­ys­mal supraven­tric­u­lar tachy­car­dia — which are of­ten ac­com­pa­nied by pal­pi­ta­tions, chest pres­sure, pain, short­ness of breath and faint­ing — on their own. The drug, etri­pamil, is al­so be­ing eval­u­at­ed for atri­al fib­ril­la­tion and angi­na. Ven­ture in­vestors col­lec­tive­ly claim more than 80% of the com­pa­ny, which raised $82.5 mil­lion in an up­sized IPO. The drug de­vel­op­er, set to trade as $MIST, of­fered 5.5 mil­lion shares at $15, sell­ing an ad­di­tion­al 500,000 shares at the mid­point of the range of $14 to $16.

Bill Hin­shaw

About a year af­ter en­tic­ing No­var­tis ex­ec­u­tive Bill Hin­shaw to run its op­er­a­tions, Flag­ship Pi­o­neer­ing-backed Ax­cel­la Health is tak­ing its pre­clin­i­cal pipeline of meta­bol­ic mod­u­la­tors — based on sci­ence that sug­gests amino acids can re­store health across a net­work of dys­reg­u­lat­ed path­ways — on to the pub­lic mar­ket. The com­pa­ny’s lead ex­per­i­men­tal drug is be­ing de­vel­oped for he­pat­ic en­cephalopa­thy, which are neu­ropsy­chi­atric ab­nor­mal­i­ties as­so­ci­at­ed with pa­tients suf­fer­ing from liv­er dys­func­tion, typ­i­cal­ly chron­ic liv­er dis­ease. The Cam­bridge, Mass­a­chu­setts-based biotech — set to trade un­der the sym­bol $AXLA — raised $71 mil­lion by of­fer­ing 3.6 mil­lion shares at $20, the low end of the range of $20 to $22.

Janet Woodcock (AP Images)

Janet Wood­cock to be act­ing FDA com­mis­sion­er while Biden team fi­nal­izes nom­i­nee — re­ports

Janet Woodcock is set to be the most powerful person at the FDA in less than a week.

The veteran regulator and longtime director of the Center for Drug Evaluation and Research has been tapped as acting commissioner of the FDA, according to reports by BioCentury’s Steve Usdin and Pink Sheet’s Sarah Karlin-Smith.

The appointment was requested by the incoming Biden team, Karlin-Smith added, as they sort out the nomination of a permanent successor to Stephen Hahn — whose one-year tenure has been defined by Covid-19.

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Janet Woodcock (AP Images)

Janet Wood­cock is in the run­ning for FDA com­mis­sion­er — what does that mean for the agen­cy's fu­ture?

Just a day after reports emerged that Janet Woodcock will serve as interim chief of the FDA, word has gotten out that she is also in the running for the permanent job.

The decision, as the initial wave of reactions suggest, could have dramatic implications for where the agency is headed in the next four years — if not beyond.

Woodcock, the longtime CDER director, is being vetted alongside former FDA principal deputy commissioner Joshua Sharfstein, Bloomberg reported. Already tapped as acting head of the agency, she’s set to take over from Stephen Hahn right after Biden’s inauguration next week.

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Steve Harr (L) and Hans Bishop

Paint­ing by the num­bers, Sana founders carve up a gi­ant uni­corn-sized IPO — for a biotech that has­n't quite made it to the clin­ic

Sana Biotechnology is one of those startups that was sketched in on the chalkboard day one in the shape of a unicorn.

A giant unicorn.

And from the numbers the cell therapy 2.0 play spelled out in their S-1 $SANA, it’s clear that the company founders — led by a pair of major VCs aligned with some high-profile industry figures — are hunting a big chunk of that value for themselves.

The raise they penciled in — $150 million — isn’t likely what they actually have in mind, and it doesn’t do justice to the size of their ambitions.

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Eli Lil­ly re-ups di­ver­si­ty pledge, pitch­ing in $30M to ven­ture fund for mi­nor­i­ty-owned health­care firms

The fight against racial injustice spurred by a series of high-profile shootings of Black men by police earlier this year put Big Pharma and healthcare — industries targeted for their lack of diversity — in the hot seat. Eli Lilly made an early pledge to change its ways and put more back into the community, and now it’s continuing to make good on that commitment.

Lilly will infuse $30 million into the Unseen Capital Health Fund, a venture fund looking to invest in early-stage minority-owned healthcare companies that have been historically “unseen” by the investment community, the pharma said Friday.

Laurie Glimcher, Dana-Farber president and CEO (Getty Images)

UP­DAT­ED: With its rank-and-file churn­ing out star­tups, Dana-Far­ber launch­es ven­ture fund to cap­i­tal­ize on that suc­cess

The pace of innovation at the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute in recent years has seen a wave of startups launch with IP or leadership sourced from the nonprofit’s ranks. Now, looking for its own returns on that success, Dana-Farber has launched a new venture fund to invest in those fledgling businesses.

On Thursday, Dana-Farber unveiled Binney Street Capital — its first-ever venture fund. Roche and Verily veteran Luba Greenwood has been tapped to lead the fund, which was named after the location of the institute’s Boston site.

CEO Brett Monia (Ionis)

Can Brett Mo­nia push Io­n­is be­yond Spin­raza?

For 30 years, Brett Monia struggled as one of Ionis’ top scientists to get their antisense technology to work. Now, as CEO, he’s trying to use it to turn Ionis into one of the industry’s biggest biotechs.

Monia, one of the handful of young scientists who in 1989 followed Stanley Crooke across the country from SmithKline (now GSK) in Philadelphia to found Ionis in Northern California, replaced Crooke as CEO last January. By then, they had proven antisense, an RNA-based method for manipulating gene expression, could work dramatically well in at least some instances, transforming spinal muscular atrophy with the Biogen-partnered blockbuster Spinraza.

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David Kessler in April 2009 (Eric Risberg/AP Images)

Covid-19 roundup: Hack­ers start re­leas­ing 'ma­nip­u­lat­ed' Covid-19 vac­cine docs; Ex-FDA com­mish David Kessler to re­place Mon­cef Slaoui as Op­er­a­tion Warp Speed chief — re­port

There’s a new twist on the EMA Covid-19 hacking story.

Friday the European agency put out the 5th in a series of statements about the hackers who broke into their system, noting that some of the information on vaccines that was gleaned in the attack is showing up online — altered to raise questions about the Covid-19 vaccines now in use.

This included internal/confidential email correspondence dating from November, relating to evaluation processes for COVID-19 vaccines. Some of the correspondence has been manipulated by the perpetrators prior to publication in a way which could undermine trust in vaccines.

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Terry Rosen, Arcus CEO

Gilead part­ner Ar­cus earns an­a­lyst­s' plau­dits for ear­ly pan­cre­at­ic can­cer da­ta that 'ex­ceed­ed ex­pec­ta­tion­s'

Arcus’ small molecule CD73 inhibitor for pancreatic cancer got a standing ovation from analysts who said preliminary data “exceeded expectations”— making waves in a field that’s seen little progress in several years and proving the candidate could be worth the hundreds of millions Gilead provided upfront in a deal that included more than a billion dollars for opt-in rights and milestones.

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News brief­ing: Five Prime fi­nal­izes PhI­II plans for gas­tric can­cer; AI di­ag­nos­tics-fo­cused Paige ex­pands staff

Five Prime Therapeutics has finalized a plan to take their comeback gastric cancer drug into late-stage studies.

The South San Francisco-based biotech released full Phase II data for bemarituzumab on Friday, which Five Prime said in November met all of its pre-specified efficacy endpoints in a topline readout. Now, the company is announcing it plans to launch a Phase III trial for the program in 2021. Following November’s readout, the future of bemarituzumab had not yet been finalized.