NEA-backed Nightstar Therapeutics sets sights on an $86M IPO to fund PhIII gene therapy study

David Fellows

Two months after banking a $45 million crossover round from some top biotech investors, Oxford gene therapy spinout Nightstar Therapeutics has penciled in an $86 million IPO to push its lead drug through Phase III testing.

Nightstar is a retinal gene therapy company— officially set up as a new subsidiary to NightStaRx — advancing new therapies aimed at diseases that cause blinding. First up is NSR-REP1, designed to treat choroideremia by correcting mutations in the CHM gene. According to the F-1, the biotech has data on 32 patients showing their gene therapy either maintained or improved visual acuity in 90% of the patients in the study. The Phase III program, set to start in early 2018, will recruit 140 patients and divide it into high- and low- and no-dose groups, while running a parallel natural history study to detail expected rates of decline.

Their next clinical-stage program is focused on XLRP, which “accounts for approximately 15% of all cases of retinitis pigmentosa, an inherited X-linked recessive retinal disease characterized by a lack of protein transport that leads to a loss of photoreceptors.” That’s in a Phase I/II study, and there’s a preclinical therapy in view as well.

David Mott, NEA

As of mid-2017, the biotech reports that it had burned through about $40 million, relatively modest for a three-year-old company looking to kick off a Phase III study and an IPO.

The company is led by an experienced group of biopharma vets. David Fellows, who held senior-level marketing positions at J&J and Allergan, is CEO. CMO Aniz Girach came from ThromboGenics and CSO Gregory Robinson once helped Shire on scientific licensing for rare diseases.

NEA (represented by a prolific David Mott), Syncona, Wellington Management are the principal shareholders, though the company didn’t actually spell out the shares they own in the F1, as required.

The company plans to list as $NITE.

They’ll be headed into a good-though-not-great market for biotech IPOs. We’ve seen a string of new offerings over the last few months, but it doesn’t come close to the 2014 boom, when gene therapy IPOs were golden.

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