CHICAGO — Here’s a neat trick for up-and-coming oncology biotechs to consider.
Execs for Forty Seven, the CD47 star founded by Stanford’s legendary Irv Weissman, filed for a $115 million IPO on Friday and then — instead of hunkering down for the quiet period — promptly flew out to Chicago to tout a promising set of proof-of-concept data for their lead drug at ASCO.
Forty Seven has preliminary data on 22 patients taking 5F9, with an impressive initial snapshot of early data for the small group. Fifteen of the patients suffer from treatment resistant diffuse large B-cell lymphoma (DLBCL) and the other 7 have follicular lymphoma. In DLBCL investigators tracked an objective response rate of 40% with a third achieving a complete response; in follicular lymphoma the ORR was 71% with 43% achieving a CR.
It’s still too early to set a median rate on the duration of response, but the researchers say that just 1 of the 22 saw their cancer progress after 6 months.
5F9 is an antibody that targets the popular CD47 receptor targets, which has inspired a slate of development efforts. Hitting that target is intended to scramble the “don’t-eat-me” signal that cancer cells rely on to avoid being chewed up by macrophages. And the Menlo Park, CA-based biotech has 6 studies underway in solid tumors, acute myeloid leukemia, non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma and colorectal carcinoma.
The biotech plans to push its studies ahead as a mono therapy as well as in combinations with PD-1/PD-L1 and CTLA-4 checkpoint inhibitors, starting with Genentech’s Tecentriq.
Forty Seven has an interesting past. The 78-year-old Weissman was able to wrangle substantial support for his early research work on CD47 from the California Institute for Regenerative Medicine, even launching early human studies — a rare feat in academic circles. Weissman and former CIRM chief Alan Trounson enjoyed a tight relationship, which extended to Trounson’s appointment to the board of another startup that Weissman had helped found — StemCells —shortly after his departure from the agency. And Forty Seven is still getting money from CIRM under its latest $19 million grant.
So far the company has raised $149 million and spent $84 million of that, according to the S-1.
Mark McCamish, a Novartis vet who enjoyed a $3.7 million pay package last year, is the CEO. He also has 3.6% of the stock. Lightspeed Ventures Partners and Sutter Hill Partners each control 16.8% of the stock, followed by Clarus at 15.8%. And Weissman has retained a hefty 9.5% of the equity, which could soon be worth a small fortune.
Forty Seven includes the following companies on its list of rivals in the field: Celgene Corporation, Trillium Therapeutics, Alexo Therapeutics, Arch Therapeutics, Surface Oncology, Novimmune, OSE Immunotherapeutics and Aurigene Discovery Technologies.
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