IPOs

Nasdaq wraps up Q3 with IPO pitches from Gamida Cell, NGM, Arog totalling $219M

Nasdaq’s bubbling biotech week did not just end with Gristone’s top-of-the-range raise, which brought the IPO tally to $520 million. Late Friday, three more biotechs lined up to enter the club, seeking a collective $219 million to fuel mid- and late-stage endeavors on cancer and NASH.

As we enter Q4, it remains to be seen whether 2018 — at 49 completed deals — will surpass the 66 biopharma IPO record set in 2014. But it is within range.

While the year has seen a number of preclinical biotechs reap big windfall on their public debut, Gamida Cell, NGM Bio and Arog Pharma all have some human data — and for two of them, big name backers or partners — to show for their pitches.

Julian Adams

Biotech veteran Julian Adams made his IPO ambitions clear on his very first day as CEO of Gamida Cell. For the Jerusalem-based company to go all the way through Phase III, build out manufacturing and execute a planned market launch of its universal cell graft, he told Endpoints News last November, they needed much more than the support already provided by Novartis, Shavit Capital, VMS Investment Group, the Israel Biotech Fund, Clal Biotechnology Industries and Israel HealthCare Ventures.

NiCord, their lead product comprising a mix of stem cells, progenitor cells as well as dendritic cells, is at the very beginning of a pivotal Phase III trial for patients with blood cancers. The clinical team is also investigating the drug’s effectiveness in treating bone marrow failure disorders, as an alternative for patients who experience graft rejection with conventional transplant options.

To wrap all that, and for the buildout of their manufacturing in Kiryat Gat, Israel, Gamida Cell is seeking $69 million. They plan to list as $GMDA.

David Woodhouse

NGM Bio, meanwhile, is asking for $75 million on the promise of its NASH therapy, which comes with a slate of Phase II data reported in April 2017, where investigators reported a hit for the primary endpoint as well as some improvements in biomarkers.

“NG­M282 is the first agent I’ve tested that holds the po­ten­tial to com­pletely re­verse steato­sis in as short as 12 weeks of ther­apy,” an Oxford researcher said at the time.

That trial is still ongoing, and a Phase IIb is expected to start in early 2019 under the leadership of new CEO David Woodhouse — a former Goldman Sachs banker who joined the company as CFO in 2015. He’s replacing William Rieflin, who’s been bumped up to the executive chairman seat. President Jeff Jonker, meanwhile, is on his way out to a new executive position. We don’t know where.

While advancing its in-house drug, NGM Bio — going by $NGM — has also been working closely with Merck, which struck a $450 million research deal in 2015 for access to its growth differentiation factor 15 program. Collaboration revenue registered at $40.7 million for the first half of 2018.

Scott Salka

Dallas-based Arog Pharma is the youngest of the three, founded in 2010 by oncologist Vinay Jain after he licensed the lead drug, crenolanib, from Pfizer for a cheap upfront license fee “in the low seven figures” with regulatory and commercialization milestones totaling $12.5 million.

In their filing, the company — now led by ex-Ambit chief Scott Salka — explains why it is so excited about the drug, which has received fast track designation at the FDA as a therapy for acute myeloid leukemia:

The clinical development of crenolanib at Pfizer had focused on the inhibition of PDGFR in solid tumors and had demonstrated favorable safety and tolerability in over 100 patients in two clinical trials. After obtaining rights to crenolanib, we discovered its potent activity against FLT3, a now validated target; such activity against FLT3 was previously unknown. In addition, we discovered that optimizing the dosing schedule to three times daily allows for greater sustained target inhibition, a critical attribute of effective tyrosine kinase inhibitor, or TKI, therapies.

If the IPO goes according to plan, Arog will get a $75 million infusion of cash to take this and a second licensed program forward under the symbol $AROG.

Oric CEO Jacob Chacko and Dean Ferrigno, a former exec at Sorrento, are among the insiders currently funding the company, though their stakes are not spelled out in the filing.


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