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

Vlad Coric (Biohaven)

In an­oth­er dis­ap­point­ment for in­vestors, FDA slaps down Bio­haven’s re­vised ver­sion of an old ALS drug

Biohaven is at risk of making a habit of disappointing its investors. 

Late Friday the biotech $BHVN reported that the FDA had rejected its application for riluzole, an old drug that they had made over into a sublingual formulation that dissolves under the tongue. According to Biohaven, the FDA had a problem with the active ingredient used in a bioequivalence study back in 2017, which they got from the Canadian drugmaker Apotex.

Francesco De Rubertis

Medicxi is rolling out its biggest fund ever to back Eu­rope's top 'sci­en­tists with strange ideas'

Francesco De Rubertis built Medicxi to be the kind of biotech venture player he would have liked to have known back when he was a full time scientist.

“When I was a scientist 20 years ago I would have loved Medicxi,’ the co-founder tells me. It’s the kind of place run by and for investigators, what the Medicxi partner calls “scientists with strange ideas — a platform for the drug hunter and scientific entrepreneur. That’s what I wanted when I was a scientist.”

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Af­ter a decade, Vi­iV CSO John Pot­tage says it's time to step down — and he's hand­ing the job to long­time col­league Kim Smith

ViiV Healthcare has always been something unique in the global drug industry.

Owned by GlaxoSmithKline and Pfizer — with GSK in the lead as majority owner — it was created 10 years ago in a time of deep turmoil for the field as something independent of the pharma giants, but with access to lots of infrastructural support on demand. While R&D at the mother ship inside GSK was souring, a razor-focused ViiV provided a rare bright spot, challenging Gilead on a lucrative front in delivering new combinations that require fewer therapies with a more easily tolerated regimen.

They kept a massive number of people alive who would otherwise have been facing a death sentence. And they made money.

And throughout, John Pottage has been the chief scientific and chief medical officer.

Until now.

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Chas­ing Roche's ag­ing block­buster fran­chise, Am­gen/Al­ler­gan roll out Avastin, Her­ceptin knock­offs at dis­count

Let the long battle for biosimilars in the cancer space begin.

Amgen has launched its Avastin and Herceptin copycats — licensed from the predecessors of Allergan — almost two years after the FDA had stamped its approval on Mvasi (bevacizumab-awwb) and three months after the Kanjinti OK (trastuzumab-anns). While the biotech had been fielding biosimilars in Europe, this marks their first foray in the US — and the first oncology biosimilars in the country.

Seer adds ex-FDA chief Mark Mc­Clel­lan to the board; Her­cules Cap­i­tal makes it of­fi­cial for new CEO Scott Bluestein

→ On the same day it announced a $17.5 million Series C, life sciences and health data company Seer unveiled that it had lured former FDA commissioner and ex-CMS administrator Mark McClellan on to its board. “Mark’s deep understanding of the health care ecosystem and visionary insights on policy reform will be crucial in informing our thinking as we work to bring our liquid biopsy and life sciences products to market,” said Seer chief and founder Omid Farokhzad in a statement.

Daniel O'Day

No­var­tis hands off 3 pre­clin­i­cal pro­grams to the an­tivi­ral R&D mas­ters at Gilead

Gilead CEO Daniel O’Day’s new task hunting up a CSO for the company isn’t stopping the industry’s dominant antiviral player from doing pipeline deals.

The big biotech today snapped up 3 preclinical antiviral programs from pharma giant Novartis, with drugs promising to treat human rhinovirus, influenza and herpes viruses. We don’t know what the upfront is, but the back end has $291 million in milestones baked in.

Vas Narasimhan, AP Images

On a hot streak, No­var­tis ex­ecs run the odds on their two most im­por­tant PhI­II read­outs. Which is 0.01% more like­ly to suc­ceed?

Novartis CEO Vas Narasimhan is living in the sweet spot right now.

The numbers are running a bit better than expected, the pipeline — which he assembled as development chief — is performing and the stock popped more than 4% on Thursday as the executive team ran through their assessment of Q2 performance.

Year-to-date the stock is up 28%, so the investors will be beaming. Anyone looking for chinks in their armor — and there are plenty giving it a shot — right now focus on payer acceptance of their $2.1 million gene therapy Zolgensma, where it’s early days. And CAR-T continues to underperform, but Novartis doesn’t appear to be suffering from it.

So what could go wrong?

Actually, not much. But Tim Anderson at Wolfe pressed Narasimhan and his development chief John Tsai to pick which of two looming Phase III readouts with blockbuster implication had the better odds of success.

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H1 analy­sis: The high-stakes ta­ble in the biotech deals casi­no is pay­ing out some record-set­ting win­nings

For years the big trend among dealmakers at the major players has been centered on ratcheting down upfront payments in favor of bigger milestones. Better known as biobucks for some. But with the top 15 companies competing for the kind of “transformative” pacts that can whip up some excitement on Wall Street, with some big biotechs like Regeneron now weighing in as well, cash is king at the high stakes table.

We asked Chris Dokomajilar, the head of DealForma, to crunch the numbers for us, looking over the top 20 deals for the past decade and breaking it all down into the top alliances already created in 2019. Gilead has clearly tipped the scales in terms of the coin of the bio-realm, with its record-setting $5 billion upfront to tie up to Galapagos’ entire pipeline.

Dokomajilar notes:

We’re going to need a ‘three comma club’ for the deals with over $1 billion in total upfront cash and equity. The $100 million-plus club is getting crowded at 164 deals in the last decade with new deals being added towards the top of the chart. 2019 already has 14 deals with at least $100 million in upfront cash and equity for a total year-to-date of over $9 billion. That beats last year’s $8 billion and sets a record.

Add upfronts and equity payments and you get $11.5 billion for the year, just shy of last year’s record-setting $11.8 billion.

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Part club, part guide, part land­lord: Arie Bellde­grun is blue­print­ing a string of be­spoke biotech com­plex­es in glob­al boom­towns — start­ing with Boston

The biotech industry is getting a landlord, unlike anything it’s ever known before.

Inspired by his recent experiences scrounging for space in Boston and the Bay Area, master biotech builder, investor, and global dealmaker Arie Belldegrun has organized a new venture to build a new, 250,000 square foot biopharma building in Boston’s Seaport district — home to Vertex and a number of up-and-coming biotech players.

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