In­vestors pony up $476M for the lat­est round of biotech IPOs to hit the Street

Three biotechs — and a genome se­quenc­ing play­er — have caught the lat­est tide to the Gold Coast of IPOs, round­ing out the first half of 2019 with 23 new drug de­vel­op­ers mak­ing it on Nas­daq.

Most of these com­pa­nies filed their IPOs al­most si­mul­ta­ne­ous­ly, though we’re still wait­ing on word of fel­low class­mate Bridge­Bio’s pric­ing af­ter CEO Neil Ku­mar set the terms at $14 to $16 a share on Mon­day in search of a $240 mil­lion (or so) wind­fall. If he’s suc­cess­ful, that would take the one-week haul past the $700 mil­lion mark, a fresh sign that in­vestors’ en­thu­si­asm for new­ly coined pub­lic biotechs hasn’t cooled.

There was al­so one hitch in the roll­out of new IPOs, though. We hear that Vivek Ra­maswamy’s Der­ma­vant has de­cid­ed to post­pone its $100 mil­lion IPO quest for now.

Here’s what you need to know about each of the new­ly pub­lic biotechs to hit the Street:

Akero: $92 mil­lion will go to NASH R&D

Akero has reaped an up­sized $92 mil­lion wind­fall on the promise of its NASH can­di­date, which has just en­tered Phase IIa test­ing. The com­pa­ny, which re­lo­cat­ed to San Fran­cis­co right as it ap­point­ed Gilead vet An­drew Cheng as CEO, priced 5.75 mil­lion shares at $16, the high end of its range.

An­drew Cheng Akero

The pro­ceeds will go to­ward the tri­al as well as man­u­fac­tur­ing and oth­er ef­forts to beef up the clin­i­cal pipeline of NASH and oth­er meta­bol­ic drugs.

AKR-001 is a long-act­ing ana­log of FGF21, a meta­bol­ic hor­mone that CSO Tim Rolph has been work­ing with for the past 8 years when he was still lead­ing re­search for Pfiz­er. This par­tic­u­lar com­pound was in-li­censed from Am­gen and be­lieved to help “redi­rect calo­ries away from the liv­er, re­duce liv­er fat, al­le­vi­ate he­pa­to­cyte stress, in­hib­it in­flam­ma­tion and re­solve fi­bro­sis in pa­tients with NASH, as well as re­duce sus­cep­ti­bil­i­ty to car­dio­vas­cu­lar dis­ease.”

Am­gen held a 7.8% stake pri­or to the IPO, while Ap­ple Tree Part­ners was the biggest share­hold­er with 18.5%. At­las, ven­Bio and Ver­sant each claimed 15.2%. Akero went with the sym­bol $AKRO.

Pre­vail: $125 mil­lion for the lat­est gene ther­a­py play­er to hit Wall Street

Parkin­son’s fight­er Pre­vail has raised $125 mil­lion in a pub­lic de­but, sur­pass­ing its orig­i­nal goal of $100 mil­lion, by of­fer­ing 7.4 mil­lion shares at the mid­point of $17. Found­ed in 2017 in part­ner­ship with Or­biMed and The Sil­ver­stein Foun­da­tion, the New York-based com­pa­ny closed a $50 mil­lion round just a few months ago.

Asa Abe­liovich Pre­vail

Founder and CEO Asa Abe­liovich vows to de­vel­op a broad­er set of AAV gene ther­a­pies for neu­rode­gen­er­a­tive dis­eases, with a fo­cus on ge­net­i­cal­ly de­fined pa­tient pop­u­la­tions. In Parkin­son’s, that means tar­get­ing the GBA1 mu­ta­tion — an un­der­ly­ing dri­ver of the (less com­mon) neu­ro­log­i­cal man­i­fes­ta­tions of a com­mon lyso­so­mal stor­age dis­or­der known as Gauch­er dis­ease. Ad­di­tion­al pro­grams in­clude PR006 for fron­totem­po­ral de­men­tia with GRN mu­ta­tion and PR004 for the treat­ment of synu­cle­inopathies, pre­clin­i­cal stud­ies of which are to be fund­ed by the IPO wind­fall.

Atre­ca: $125 mil­lion for a pre­clin­i­cal on­col­o­gy biotech

Red­wood City, CA-based Atre­ca raised $125 mil­lion from its IPO, sell­ing 7.4 mil­lion shares at $17 a pop, with in­sid­ers de­clar­ing an in­ter­est in close to half that amount. That amount match­es its $125 mil­lion mega-crossover round from last fall, leav­ing the com­pa­ny well fund­ed for the R&D ef­fort ahead.

John Or­win Atre­ca

The still pre­clin­i­cal work at Atre­ca cen­ters on a plat­form tech that takes tis­sue sam­ples from can­cer pa­tients to ex­plore for ide­al an­ti­bod­ies, CEO John Or­win told me at the time, us­ing B cells as their sound­ing board. 

The biotech ex­pects to sub­mit an FDA ap­pli­ca­tion to test its lead ex­per­i­men­tal drug, ATRC-101, in hu­mans in late 2019, and kick off an ear­ly-stage tri­al in ear­ly 2020. Bak­er Broth­ers Life Sci­ences and its af­fil­i­ates own 22.8% of the com­pa­ny’s class A shares — and all of its B shares — while oth­er big share­hold­ers in­clude: Hadley Har­bor Mas­ter In­vestors (12.5%), Bill & Melin­da Gates Foun­da­tion (9%) and Box­er Cap­i­tal (6.9%). Atre­ca is list­ed un­der the sym­bol $BCEL.

Per­son­alis: $134 mil­lion for can­cer ge­nomics play­er

Per­son­alis casts it­self as a lead play­er in the can­cer ge­nomics field, a hot but crowd­ed space these days. And de­spite lots of com­pe­ti­tion, the com­pa­ny bagged $134 mil­lion from the sale of 7.9 mil­lion shares at $17 a pop — well past the $115 mil­lion they ini­tial­ly pen­ciled in.

The biotech has banked on the promise of the genome se­quenc­ing tech it sells to phar­mas (in­clud­ing Mer­ck and Pfiz­er), biotechs, uni­ver­si­ties and oth­er med­ical re­search in­sti­tutes.

Its Im­munoID NeXT plat­form, Per­son­alis says, is “the first tech­nol­o­gy to en­able com­pre­hen­sive analy­sis of both a tu­mor and its im­mune mi­croen­vi­ron­ment from a sin­gle sam­ple and pro­vides util­i­ty across im­muno-on­col­o­gy, tar­get­ed, and per­son­al­ized ther­a­pies.” And that’s one of sev­er­al prod­ucts it plans to com­mer­cial­ize lat­er this year.

Here’s a se­lect list of prime ri­vals from the S-1:

Guardant Health, Inc., Foun­da­tion Med­i­cine, Inc., which was ac­quired by Roche Hold­ings, Inc. in Ju­ly 2018, Roche Mol­e­c­u­lar Sys­tems, Inc., NanoS­tring Tech­nolo­gies, Inc., Per­son­al Genome Di­ag­nos­tics, Inc., and Adap­tive Biotech­nolo­gies


With con­tri­bu­tion by John Car­roll.

So­cial im­age: Shut­ter­stock

BiTE® Plat­form and the Evo­lu­tion To­ward Off-The-Shelf Im­muno-On­col­o­gy Ap­proach­es

Despite rapid advances in the field of immuno-oncology that have transformed the cancer treatment landscape, many cancer patients are still left behind.1,2 Not every person has access to innovative therapies designed specifically to treat his or her disease. Many currently available immuno-oncology-based approaches and chemotherapies have brought long-term benefits to some patients — but many patients still need other therapeutic options.3

Pfiz­er’s Doug Gior­dano has $500M — and some ad­vice — to of­fer a cer­tain breed of 'break­through' biotech

So let’s say you’re running a cutting-edge, clinical-stage biotech, probably public, but not necessarily so, which could see some big advantages teaming up with some marquee researchers, picking up say $50 million to $75 million dollars in a non-threatening minority equity investment that could take you to the next level.

Doug Giordano might have some thoughts on how that could work out.

The SVP of business development at the pharma giant has helped forge a new fund called the Pfizer Breakthrough Growth Initiative. And he has $500 million of Pfizer’s money to put behind 7 to 10 — or so — biotech stocks that fit that general description.

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Stephen Isaacs, Aduro president and CEO (Aduro)

Once a high fly­er, a stag­ger­ing Aduro is auc­tion­ing off most of the pipeline as CEO Stephen Isaacs hands off the shell to new own­ers

After a drumbeat of failure, setbacks and reorganizations over the last few years, Aduro CEO Stephen Isaacs is handing over his largely gutted-out shell of a public company to another biotech company and putting up some questionable assets in a going-out-of-business sale.

Isaacs —who forged a string of high-profile Big Pharma deals along the way — has wrapped a 13-year run at the biotech with one program for kidney disease going to the new owners at Chinook Therapeutics. A host of once-heralded assets like their STING agonist program partnered with Novartis (which dumped their work on ADU-S100 after looking over weak clinical results), the Lilly-allied cGAS-STING inhibitor program and the anti-CD27 program out-licensed to Merck will all be posted for auction under a strategic review process.

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Fangliang Zhang (Imaginechina via AP Images)

The big mon­ey: Poised to make drug R&D his­to­ry, a Chi­na biotech un­veils uni­corn rac­ing am­bi­tions in a bid to raise $350M-plus on Nas­daq

Almost exactly three years after Shanghai-based Legend came out of nowhere to steal the show at ASCO with jaw-dropping data on their BCMA-targeted CAR-T for multiple myeloma, the little player with Big Pharma connections is taking a giant step toward making it big on Wall Street. And this time they want to seal the deal on a global rep after staking out a unicorn valuation in what’s turned out to be a bull market for biotech IPOs — in the middle of a pandemic.

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Gilead re­leas­es an­oth­er round of murky remde­sivir re­sults

A month after the NIH declared the first trial on remdesivir in Covid-19 a success, Gilead is out with new results on their antiviral. But although the study met one of its primary endpoints, the data are likely to only add to a growing debate over how effective the drug actually is.

In a Phase III trial, patients given a 5-day dose of remdesivir were 65% more likely to show “clinical improvement” compared to an arm given standard-of-care. The trial, though, gave little indication for whether the drug had an impact on key endpoints such as survival or time-to-recovery. And in a surprising twist, a 10-day dosing arm of remdesivir didn’t lead to a statistically significant improvement over standard of care.

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Bris­tol My­ers Squib­b's just-launched MS drug Zeposia makes the cut in key ul­cer­a­tive col­i­tis tri­al

In March, Zeposia became the third oral S1P modulator to secure US approval for multiple sclerosis. Now, the drug has succeeded in a key ulcerative colitis study.

The immunomodulator, akin to others in its class, controls lymphocyte trafficking by limiting the white blood cells to the lymphatic system, in the lymph nodes, and thwarting their ability to jam up lymph nodes — precluding their ability to penetrate the bloodstream and the central nervous system.

Hill­house re­casts spot­light on Chi­na's biotech scene with $160M round for Shang­hai-based an­ti­body mak­er

Almost two years after first buying into Genor Biopharma’s pipeline of cancer and autoimmune therapies, Hillhouse Capital has led a $160 million cash injection to push the late-stage assets over the finish line while continuing to fund both internal R&D and dealmaking.

The Series B has landed right around the time Genor would have listed on the Hong Kong stock exchange, according to plans reported by Bloomberg late last year. Insiders had said that the company was looking to raise about $200 million.

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Novus Ther­a­peu­tics plunges deep in­to pen­ny stock ter­ri­to­ry af­ter failed ear tri­al

After a more than 15-year run, a California-based biotech is exploring options, including a sale, after its lead experimental therapy failed an exploratory mid-stage study in patients with middle ear infections characterized by a build-up of fluid behind the eardrum.

The company, initially called Tokai Pharmaceuticals but which subsequently changed its name to Novus Therapeutics in 2017, saw its shares more than halve on Monday after the drug — OP0201— did not pass muster as an adjunct therapy to oral antibiotics in infants and children aged 6 to 24 months with acute otitis media (OM).

Federico Mingozzi (Spark)

Spark touts an­i­mal da­ta for a so­lu­tion to AAV gene ther­a­py's an­ti­body prob­lem

Among all the limitations of using an adeno-associated virus as a vector to deliver a gene — still the most established modality in gene therapy given years of trial and error and finally success — the presence of neutralizing antibodies, whether pre-existing or induced, looms large.

“When I think about the immune responses in AAV, I try to sort of layer them,” Federico Mingozzi, the CSO at Spark Therapeutics, told Endpoints News. “The antibody is the first layer. It’s the first block that you find when you’re trying to do gene transfer.”