The biotech IPO boom is be­com­ing ‘his­toric’ as four more throw their hats in

Four more US biotechs filed to go pub­lic Fri­day as yet more com­pa­nies clam­ber to get through a yawn­ing IPO win­dow and on­to a mar­ket that’s sig­naled its will­ing­ness to re­ward near­ly any new drug­mak­er.

The new en­trants are led by ALX On­col­o­gy and the bi­o­log­i­cal an­a­lyt­ics biotech Berke­ley Lights, each of whom filed to raise $100 mil­lion. The au­toim­mune com­pa­ny Pan­dion Ther­a­peu­tics al­so filed for $75 mil­lion, and Kiromic Bio­phar­ma, a tiny im­muno-on­col­o­gy start­up based in San An­to­nio, filed for $25 mil­lion.

These com­pa­nies will try to cap­i­tal­ize on a 2020 biotech IPO boom that the in­vest­ment firm Re­nais­sance Cap­i­tal re­cent­ly called “his­toric.” The spree be­gan in Jan­u­ary and, af­ter a brief in­ter­lude when the pan­dem­ic first hit the US and Eu­rope, has on­ly picked up in the last two months. The 23 com­pa­nies that have gone pub­lic av­er­aged an 80% re­turn on their of­fer­ing price, ac­cord­ing to Re­nais­sance Cap­i­tal num­bers. Every sin­gle one priced above their mid­point or up­sized their of­fer­ing.

Un­like most of their fel­low new­ly or would-be pub­lic biotechs, Berke­ley Lights will en­ter the mar­ket with sig­nif­i­cant rev­enue on the books. The com­pa­ny doesn’t make drugs but in­stead has built a “dig­i­tal cell bi­ol­o­gy” plat­form that can an­a­lyze liv­ing cells from a va­ri­ety of dif­fer­ent di­men­sions and, in prin­ci­pal, ac­cel­er­ate drug de­vel­op­ment. They’ve part­nered with Sanofi and Pfiz­er on an­ti­body dis­cov­ery and last year, signed a $150 mil­lion pact with Gink­go Bioworks to help the syn­thet­ic bi­ol­o­gy uni­corn ad­vance its ge­net­ic en­gi­neer­ing ca­pa­bil­i­ties.

All told, the com­pa­ny earned $51 mil­lion in rev­enue last year. Un­like a drug de­vel­op­er, they have no cash ear­marked for spe­cif­ic pipeline prod­ucts, and said they will use pro­ceeds for re­search, po­ten­tial ac­qui­si­tions and “gen­er­al cor­po­rate pur­pos­es.”

For ALX On­col­o­gy, a suc­cess­ful of­fer­ing would mean their sec­ond $100 mil­lion tranche of the year. In Feb­ru­ary, the Cal­i­for­nia biotech raised $105 mil­lion to help ad­vance its sole pipeline can­di­date: an an­ti­body de­signed to tar­get CD47. That’s the same “don’t-eat-me” sig­nal tar­get­ed by Irv Weiss­man’s Forty Sev­en Inc., the biotech Gilead paid $5 bil­lion for in Jan­u­ary. ALX’s pitch is that their an­ti­body’s FC re­cep­tor is en­gi­neered to not at­tract macrophages, re­duc­ing tox­i­c­i­ty. The biotech will use their pro­ceeds to push the drug through its on­go­ing head and neck squa­mous cell car­ci­no­ma and gas­tric can­cer tri­al and be­gin new tri­als for it in acute myeloid leukemia and myelodys­plas­tic syn­drome. A por­tion is al­so ear­marked for CMC work.

Found­ed out of Po­laris in 2018, Pan­dion Ther­a­peu­tics was tapped last year for an up-to $800 mil­lion part­ner­ship to help a re­or­ga­niz­ing Astel­las de­vel­op an­ti­bod­ies for au­to-im­mune dis­or­ders. That deal in­clud­ed $45 mil­lion up­front and the com­pa­ny al­so earned $80 mil­lion from a Se­ries B in April. The new fund­ing will be used to push their lead mol­e­cule through Phase I/II tri­als in ul­cer­a­tive col­i­tis while al­so back­ing pre­clin­i­cal re­search, par­tic­u­lar­ly on a pair of an­ti­bod­ies meant to turn on the PD-1 check­point and tamp down the im­mune sys­tem.

Kiromic, mean­while, is in part just try­ing to stay alive. With less than $2 mil­lion — $5 mil­lion when a sub­se­quent $3 mil­lion Se­ries B is in­clud­ed — in the bank at year’s end, they ac­knowl­edged in their S-1 that there’s “sub­stan­tial doubt re­gard­ing the Com­pa­ny’s abil­i­ty to con­tin­ue as a go­ing con­cern.” In this cli­mate, though, that’s worked out just fine for oth­er com­pa­nies. Ap­plied Mol­e­c­u­lar Trans­port went pub­lic in May with the same con­cerns. They ul­ti­mate­ly raised $177 mil­lion.

Health­care Dis­par­i­ties and Sick­le Cell Dis­ease

In the complicated U.S. healthcare system, navigating a serious illness such as cancer or heart disease can be remarkably challenging for patients and caregivers. When that illness is classified as a rare disease, those challenges can become even more acute. And when that rare disease occurs in a population that experiences health disparities, such as people with sickle cell disease (SCD) who are primarily Black and Latino, challenges can become almost insurmountable.

Jacob Van Naarden (Eli Lilly)

Ex­clu­sives: Eli Lil­ly out to crash the megablock­buster PD-(L)1 par­ty with 'dis­rup­tive' pric­ing; re­veals can­cer biotech buy­out

It’s taken 7 years, but Eli Lilly is promising to finally start hammering the small and affluent PD-(L)1 club with a “disruptive” pricing strategy for their checkpoint therapy allied with China’s Innovent.

Lilly in-licensed global rights to sintilimab a year ago, building on the China alliance they have with Innovent. That cost the pharma giant $200 million in cash upfront, which they plan to capitalize on now with a long-awaited plan to bust up the high-price market in lung cancer and other cancers that have created a market worth tens of billions of dollars.

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David Meek, new Mirati CEO (Marlene Awaad/Bloomberg via Getty Images)

Fresh off Fer­Gene's melt­down, David Meek takes over at Mi­rati with lead KRAS drug rac­ing to an ap­proval

In the insular world of biotech, a spectacular failure can sometimes stay on any executive’s record for a long time. But for David Meek, the man at the helm of FerGene’s recent implosion, two questionable exits made way for what could be an excellent rebound.

Meek, most recently FerGene’s CEO and a past head at Ipsen, has become CEO at Mirati Therapeutics, taking the reins from founding CEO Charles Baum, who will step over into the role of president and head of R&D, according to a release.

FDA hands ac­cel­er­at­ed nod to Seagen, Gen­mab's so­lo ADC in cer­vi­cal can­cer, but com­bo stud­ies look even more promis­ing

Biopharma’s resident antibody-drug conjugate expert Seagen has scored a clutch of oncology approvals in recent years, finding gold in what are known as “third-gen” ADCs. Now, another of their partnered conjugates is ready for prime time.

The FDA on Monday handed an accelerated approval to Seagen and Genmab’s Tivdak (tisotumab vedotin-tftv, or “TV”) in second-line patients with recurrent or metastatic cervical cancer who previously progressed after chemotherapy rather than PD-(L)1 systemic therapy, the companies said in a release.

Rafaèle Tordjman (Jeito Capital)

Con­ti­nu­ity and di­ver­si­ty: Rafaèle Tord­j­man's women-led VC firm tops out first fund at $630M

For a first-time fund, Jeito Capital talks a lot about continuity.

Rafaèle Tordjman had spotlighted that concept ever since she started building the firm in 2018, promising to go the extra mile(s) with biotech entrepreneurs while pushing them to reach patients faster.

Coincidentally, the lack of continuity was one of the sore spots listed in a report about the European healthcare sector published that same year by the European Investment Bank — whose fund is one of the LPs, alongside the American pension fund Teacher Retirement System of Texas and Singapore’s Temasek, to help Jeito close its first fund at $630 million (€534 million). As previously reported, Sanofi had chimed in €50 million, marking its first investment in a French life sciences fund.

Dave Lennon, former president of Novartis Gene Therapies

Zol­gens­ma patent spat brews be­tween No­var­tis and Re­genxbio as top No­var­tis gene ther­a­py ex­ec de­parts

Regenxbio, a small licensor of gene therapy viral vectors spun out from the University of Pennsylvania, is now finding itself in the middle of some major league patent fights.

In addition to a patent suit with Sarepta Therapeutics from last September, Novartis, is now trying to push its smaller partner out of the way. The Swiss biopharma licensed Regenxbio’s AAV9 vector for its $2.1 million spinal muscular atrophy therapy Zolgensma.

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Time for round 2: Il­lu­mi­na-backed VC snags $325M for its next fund

Illumina Ventures closed off its second investment fund with a total commitment of $325 million, offering fresh fuel to back a slate of startups that have already included a smorgasbord of companies, covering everything from diagnostics to biotech drug development and genomics.

Fund II brings the total investment under Illumina Ventures’ oversight to $560 million, which has been focused on early-stage companies. And it has a transatlantic portfolio that includes SQZ, Twist and Encoded Therapeutics.

Volker Wagner (L) and Jeff Legos

As Bay­er, No­var­tis stack up their ra­dio­phar­ma­ceu­ti­cal da­ta at #ES­MO21, a key de­bate takes shape

Ten years ago, a small Norwegian biotech by the name of Algeta showed up at ESMO — then the European Multidisciplinary Cancer Conference 2011 — and declared that its Bayer-partnered targeted radionuclide therapy, radium-223 chloride, boosted the overall survival of castration-resistant prostate cancer patients with symptomatic bone metastases.

In a Phase III study dubbed ALSYMPCA, patients who were treated with radium-223 chloride lived a median of 14 months compared to 11.2 months. The FDA would stamp an approval on it based on those data two years later, after Bayer snapped up Algeta and christened the drug Xofigo.

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Raju Mohan, Ventyx Biosciences CEO

Months af­ter a mam­moth raise, Ven­tyx Bio­sciences dips back in­to ven­ture well

Several months after emerging from what CEO Raju Mohan called “quiet mode” with a mammoth $114 million raise, Ventyx Biosciences is now making its plans for the clinic loud and clear.

The California-based immune modulation player kicked the week off with a $51 million Series B, while also naming some key hires ahead of its big clinical push.

The CMO slot is going to Jörn Drappa, former CMO at Viela Bio before it was bought out by Horizon Therapeutics earlier this year. The AstraZeneca vet stayed on at Horizon for a while as executive VP of R&D before making the jump to Ventyx.