The first biotech IPO of the new decade has landed — and of course it's another cancer drug developer
The first biotech IPO of 2020 is here, and it’s for a company founded by two marquee names in oncology.
Cambridge-based Black Diamond Therapeutics filed on Friday for an IPO worth up to $100 million, becoming the first biotech of the decade to announce their intention to go public. They’ll use their proceeds to bring their new oncogene approach into the clinic.
The fact that an oncology biotech will be the first IPO of the new decade should come as little surprise. The calendar may have changed but the basic incentives that have driven record investment into and revenue from cancer drugs haven’t. Last year’s first IPO — Poseida Therapeutics — was also a cancer-focused biotech.
The first company launched out of Versant’s Basel-based discovery engine in December 2018, Black Diamond leveraged a high-profile C-suite and emerging science to rapidly rake in cash: Nearly $200 million within a year of their emergence from stealth mode, including an $85 million Series C last month.
The biotech is run by David Epstein and Elizabeth Buck, two former developers of the cancer drug Tarceva. The tech is a form of targeted oncology called allosteric therapies. These therapies are similar to other oncogenic drugs, such as kinase inhibitors, that inhibit the main binding site of a protein fueling cancer. It just does so by inhibiting a different part of the protein that may have mutated.
Black Diamond has spent over a year mapping these mutations, before raising the Series C on the promise of pushing their BDTX-189 drug for HER2 and EGFR mutations into a Phase I/II trial.
They promise to use the bulk of their IPO proceeds for the same goal, with some of the rest going to a preclinical glioblastoma program.
The same day as Black Diamond’s filing, Shanghai-based oncology startup I-Mab Biopharma updated their filing with detailed information. They’re expected to be the year’s first biotech to price, on January 16.
I-Mab’s announcement came in October, but the new filing offers more detail into a company that hopes to become the first Chinese biotech to list on the Nasdaq exchange since Zai Lab debuted in 2017.
They expect to price between $13 and $14 per share and raise $87 million. They will use the proceeds largely to fund a long list of clinical trials, while slotting significant portions for building their own manufacturing facility in China and research facilities in the US.
The teeming number of assets has to do with I-Mab’s unusual but thus-far successful model. The company has spread widely, licensing a long list of assets from more established biotechs. They conduct proof-of-concept trials in the US, and then use the data for trials in China. Once the drug is clinically validated in the US, I-Mab retains Chinese rights for further development and global out-licensing.
Most of these assets are in oncology — including lead multiple myeloma asset TJ202 — although TJ101 is a long-acting hormone for pediatric growth deficiency and TJ301 is an IL-6 for autoimmune disorders.
It’s a model that’s already gained over $400 million in private funding. Their Nasdaq bid reflects the growing importance of China, not only as a burgeoning market for established pharma companies but as a growing hub for drug development.