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.

Mi­no­ryx and Sper­o­genix ink an ex­clu­sive li­cense agree­ment to de­vel­op and com­mer­cial­ize lerigli­ta­zone in Chi­na

September 23, 2020 – Hong Kong, Beijing, Shanghai (China) and Mataró, Barcelona (Spain)  

Minoryx will receive an upfront and milestone payments of up to $78 million, as well as double digit royalties on annual net sales 

Sperogenix will receive exclusive rights to develop and commercialize leriglitazone for the treatment of X-linked adrenoleukodystrophy (X-ALD), a rare life-threatening neurological condition

FDA commissioner Stephen Hahn at the White House (AP Images)

Un­der fire, FDA to is­sue stricter guid­ance for Covid-19 vac­cine EUA this week — re­port

The FDA has been insisting for months that a Covid-19 vaccine had to be at least 50% effective – a measure of transparency meant to shore public trust in the agency and in a vaccine that had been brought forward at record speed and record political pressure. But now, with concerns of a Trump-driven authorization arriving before the election, the agency may be raising the bar.

The FDA is set to release new guidance that would raise safety and efficacy requirements for a vaccine EUA above earlier guidance and above the criteria used for convalescent plasma or hydroxychloroquine, The Washington Post reported. Experts say this significantly lowers the odds of an approval before the election on November 3, which Trump has promised despite vocal concerns from public health officials.

Secretary of health and human services Alex Azar speaking in the Rose Garden at the White House (Photo: AFP)

Trump’s HHS claims ab­solute au­thor­i­ty over the FDA, clear­ing path to a vac­cine EUA

The top career staff at the FDA has vowed not to let politics overrule science when looking at vaccine data this fall. But Alex Azar, who happens to be their boss’s boss, apparently won’t even give them a chance to stand in the way.

In a new memorandum issued Tuesday last week, the HHS chief stripped the FDA and other health agencies under his purview of their rule making ability, asserting all such power “is reserved to the Secretary.” Sheila Kaplan of the New York Times first obtained and reported the details of the September 15 bulletin.

Samit Hirawat (Bristol Myers Squibb)

Af­ter bruis­ing re­jec­tion, blue­bird and Bris­tol My­ers Squibb land ide-cel pri­or­i­ty re­view. But will it mat­ter for the CVR?

With the clock all but up, the FDA accepted and handed priority review to Bristol Myers Squibb and bluebird bio’s BCMA CAR-T, keeping a narrow window open for Celgene investors to still cash in on the $9 CVR from the $63 billion Celgene merger.

The acceptance comes five months after the two companies weres slammed with a surprise refuse-to-file that threatened to foreclose the CVR entirely. Today’s acceptance sets the FDA decision date for March 27, 2021 – or precisely 4 days before the CVR deadline of March 31. Given the breakthrough designation and strong pivotal data — 81.5% response rate, 35.2% complete response rate — priority review was largely expected.

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Zai Lab hauls in $761M from Hong Kong IPO to push Ze­ju­la, more bud­ding can­di­dates in Chi­na — re­port

Zai Lab is set to net more than $761 million from its secondary listing in Hong Kong after pricing the IPO at $72.51 (HKD$562) — just a hair below its Nasdaq closing price on Monday, Bloomberg and Nikkei Asian Review reported.

A pioneer in bringing Western drugs to China, co-founder and CEO Samantha Du has more than tripled Zai Lab’s market cap in the three years it’s been public in the US. The HKEX listing is designed to fund R&D and commercialization for the current portfolio while fueling new in-licensing pacts, the biotech wrote in a filing.

Blueprint CEO Jeff Albers (file photo)

Blue­print plots re­turn to FDA with new Ay­vak­it da­ta in rare con­di­tion — and the an­a­lysts cheer

Over a decade after launch, Blueprint Medicines nabbed the first approval for their first drug earlier this year. Now, as they move forward with a Roche-partnered global launch, they’re touting data that could push them into more patients.

The Jeff Albers-led Cambridge biotech released their full pivotal data for Ayvakit in patients with advanced systemic mastocytosis. In one 53-person study, they showed that 76% of patients responded to the drug, 36% had complete responses and that on average their responses lasted for just over 3 years. A smaller, 32-patient study had a 75% response rate and most were still responding after 10.4 months, the last follow-up.

President Donald Trump (via AP Images)

Signs of an 'Oc­to­ber Vac­cine Sur­prise' alarm ca­reer sci­en­tists. HHS con­tin­ues to claim Azar “will de­fer com­plete­ly to the FDA"

President Donald Trump, who seems intent on announcing a Covid-19 vaccine before Election Day, could legally authorize a vaccine over the objections of experts, officials at the FDA and even vaccine manufacturers, who have pledged not to release any vaccine unless it’s proved safe and effective.

In podcasts, public forums, social media and medical journals, a growing number of prominent health leaders say they fear that Trump — who has repeatedly signaled his desire for the swift approval of a vaccine and his displeasure with perceived delays at the FDA — will take matters into his own hands, running roughshod over the usual regulatory process.

#ES­MO20: Push­ing in­to front­line, Mer­ck and Bris­tol My­ers duke it out with new slate of GI can­cer da­ta

Having worked in parallel for years to move their respective PD-1 inhibitors up to the first-line treatment of gastrointestinal cancers, Merck and Bristol Myers Squibb finally have the data at ESMO for a showdown.

Comparing KEYNOTE-590 and CheckMate-649, of course, comes with the usual caveats. But a side-by-side look at the overall survival numbers also offer some perspective on a new frontier for the reigning checkpoint rivals, both of whom are claiming to have achieved a first.

Norbert Bischofberger, Kronos CEO

Three more biotechs look to jump on­to Nas­daq amid IPO boom, in­clud­ing Nor­bert Bischof­berg­er's Kro­nos

Three drug developers announced plans to go public on Friday, a sign that the IPO window for biopharma is wide open.

First up is Daly City, CA-based Spruce Biosciences. They filed for an $86 million IPO to develop their pipeline for classic congenital adrenal hyperplasia (CAH). Currently, only steroids are available to treat the condition, which affects the adrenal glands above the kidneys. Spruce’s tildacerfont, a non-steroidal option, is in a Phase IIb trial in adults with classic CAH and poor disease control. The company expects a topline readout here in the next 12 to 15 months. The small molecule is also in a Phase IIb study in adults with classic CAH and good disease control. Spruce expects topline data here in the first half of 2022.