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.

Big Phar­ma's Twit­ter ex­o­dus; Mer­ck wa­gers $1.35B on buy­out; $3.5M gene ther­a­py; and more

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Paul Perreault, CSL Behring CEO

CSL lands FDA ap­proval for he­mo­phil­ia B gene ther­a­py, sets $3.5M list price

The FDA has approved the world’s first gene therapy for hemophilia B, ushering into the market a treatment that’s historic in both what it promises to do and how much it will cost.

CSL will be marketing the drug, Hemgenix, at a list price of $3.5 million — which sets a new record for the most expensive single-use gene therapy in the US.

In a statement provided to Endpoints News, the Australian company noted that the current costs of treating people with moderate to severe hemophilia B can be significant over a lifetime. By some estimates, healthcare systems could spend more than $20 million per person.

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MIT re­searchers re­veal DNA "Paste" tech be­hind lat­est gene edit­ing start­up

MIT scientists have developed a tool that they say can insert large gene sequences where they want in the genome.

In a paper published Thursday in Nature Biotechnology, MIT fellows Omar Abudayyeh, Jonathan Gootenberg and colleagues detail a technology they call PASTE, which they say can potentially be used to insert long strands of DNA and treat genetic diseases caused by many different mutations, such as cystic fibrosis and Leber congenital amaurosis, a rare eye disorder that causes blindness.

Elon Musk (GDA via AP Images)

Biggest drug com­pa­nies halt­ed Twit­ter ad buys af­ter Lil­ly in­sulin spoof

Almost all of the drug industry’s biggest advertisers cut their spending on Twitter to zero or near-zero over the last two weeks amid worries about impersonation of their brands by pranksters and the future of the social media company.

Among 18 of the biggest pharmaceutical advertisers in the US market, 12 cut their Twitter ad spending to nothing for the week beginning Nov. 14, according to Pathmatics, which tracks data on prescription drug ad spending as well as general corporate advertising. The list of drugmakers cutting spending to zero includes Merck, AstraZeneca, Eli Lilly, Novartis, Pfizer and others.

Rob Davis, Merck CEO

Up­dat­ed: No Seagen here: 'Do more' means a small $1.35B pur­chase of Ima­go for Mer­ck

Merck is making an acquisition, the Big Pharma announced before Monday’s opening bell. No, Seagen is not entering the fold, as had been speculated for quarters.

Folding under Merck’s wings will be Pfizer-backed Imago BioSciences. For nearly a year, Merck CEO Rob Davis has been saying the pharma giant needs to “do more” on the business development front after its 2021 $11.5 billion acquisition of Acceleron.

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Andrew Phillips, Nexo Therapeutics CEO

Scoop: Ver­sant, NEA launch new biotech helmed by ex-CEO of pro­tein de­grad­er C4 Ther­a­peu­tics

Long-time biotech venture firms Versant and New Enterprise Associates are backing a new startup run by former C4 Therapeutics chief executive Andrew Phillips.

The fledgling biotech has raised at least $30 million so far, according to paperwork filed with the SEC this week. The round could balloon to $60 million.

Phillips, who left protein degradation startup C4 in 2020 to be a managing director at Cormorant Asset Management, is running the show of the new venture as president, the SEC filing outlines. He also served as interim CEO of Cormorant-backed and Hansoh Pharmaceutical-partnered Blossom Bioscience last year.

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J&J's Spra­va­to pulls a PhI­II win against Sero­quel XR in treat­ment-re­sis­tant de­pres­sion

A day before Thanksgiving, J&J’s Janssen has a new cut of Phase III Spravato data to be grateful for.

The pharma giant announced on Wednesday that its nasal spray, also known as esketamine, beat extended-release quetiapine, previously sold by AstraZeneca as Seroquel XR, in treatment-resistant depression (TRD). Of 676 adults, a significantly higher number of patients on Spravato were able to achieve remission and avoid relapse after 32 weeks, according to J&J.

Dermavant Sciences' first consumer TV ad for its Vtama psoriasis med shows people ready for a new topical treatment.

Roivant’s Der­ma­vant de­buts first-ever TV com­mer­cial for pso­ri­a­sis cream Vta­ma

Dermavant Sciences has been marketing its first product, psoriasis med Vtama, to dermatologists for months, but on Tuesday it rolled out its first consumer campaign. The debut DTC effort including a streaming TV commercial encourages patients to a “Topical Uprising” in a nod to Vtama being a topical cream.

In the new commercial, a swell of people discards scarves and jacket coverings, gathering in the street to converge on a pharmacy to demand a steroid-free prescription. A moment of levity follows when a pharmacist says, “You know you can just talk to your doctor, right?” The gathered crowds collectively says, “Oh.”

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FDA preps for DMD drug gener­ics as Sarep­ta has yet to fin­ish its con­fir­ma­to­ry tri­al

The FDA typically releases guidance to help generic drug manufacturers develop new copycats of small molecule drugs, oftentimes in preparation for a brand name product’s patents or exclusivity to expire.

This week, FDA released such bioequivalence guidance for any generic drugmakers looking to take on Sarepta’s Duchenne muscular dystrophy (DMD) drug Exondys 51 (eteplirsen), even though the drug’s sponsor has yet to convert the accelerated approval to a full approval, showing clinical benefit.