Five months after Celgene partnered with Jounce Therapeutics on a $2.56 billion development deal, the Cambridge, MA-based biotech is ending the year with a $75 million IPO bid.
Now at the Phase I/II stage of development, Jounce was launched by Third Rock and gained attention for an immuno-oncology strategy that involved in amping up an immune system attack on cancer. Celgene bought in to the company with $261 million for equity and an upfront in July. The first batch of safety and efficacy data are expected next year. And there’s also a PD-1 checkpoint program in the works for future combo programs.
Third Rock still owns a majority of the company, according to the IPO, with 53% of the stock. Fidelity owns 12%, Celgene weighs in at 11.4% and Murray has a 2.5% stake in the company.
The lead drug says a lot about Jounce. It’s focused on ICOS, AKA the Inducible T cell CO-Stimulator, a protein on the surface of T cells Jounce believes can spur an immune response against a patient’s cancer. Immuno-oncology has been at the crossroads of a multitude of deals over the past three years, and Celgene clearly wants to be in the front end of the second wave — what Jounce CEO Rich Murray calls immuno-oncology 2.0 — after Bristol-Myers and Merck led the way with Opdivo and Keytruda for checkpoint inhibition.
2016 has seen a sharp drop off in the number of new biotech IPOs after a fierce run-upfrom 2013-2015. A rocky market has soured generalists’ interest in biotech, and a notable series of late-stage flops have done nothing to generate renewed interest in the high-risk field. Now Jounce will be among the first to see if that trend can change in the year ahead.
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