The Ides of March bring no mis­for­tune to biotech, as in­dus­try logs sec­ond-busiest IPO week of 2021

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Af­ter a slow cou­ple of weeks, the biotech IPO mar­ket is heat­ing back up with four more com­pa­nies hit­ting Nas­daq.

In­stil Bio, Con­nect Bio­phar­ma, Finch Ther­a­peu­tics and Gain Ther­a­peu­tics are this week’s win­ners, with the fear­some four­some all mak­ing their pub­lic de­buts Thurs­day or Fri­day. In­stil led the way with a heav­i­ly up­sized $320 mil­lion raise, mark­ing the sec­ond-biggest IPO raise of 2021 be­hind Sana, and Con­nect and Finch al­so pulled in nine-fig­ure fund­ing.

By the End­points News tal­ly, there have been 22 com­pa­nies to com­plete their IPO rais­es so far in 2021. The group has com­bined to raise about $3.81 bil­lion.

In terms of ac­tiv­i­ty, noth­ing will like­ly top the first week of Feb­ru­ary any­time soon when 10 — yes, 10 — biotechs made the pub­lic leap. But this week’s four de­buts mark the sec­ond-busiest IPO week of the year.

With $320M megaraise, In­stil seeks to make its mark in the TIL space

In­stil had orig­i­nal­ly pen­ciled $100 mil­lion in­to their S-1, but it soon be­came ap­par­ent they had a much high­er raise in mind.

Ear­li­er this week, the Dal­las com­pa­ny up­sized its es­ti­mate to $250 mil­lion and in­creased its po­ten­tial range from $17-$19 to $19-20 per share. They ul­ti­mate­ly priced at $20, the high end of the new range, and pulled in the $320 mil­lion raise.

Pre-IPO, In­stil $TIL had raised $380 mil­lion in ven­ture fund­ing.

In­stil faces some high-pro­file com­pe­ti­tion not just with TIL play­ers like Io­vance, Adap­ti­m­mune and PACT Phar­ma, but al­so CAR-T and TCR-T cell ther­a­py de­vel­op­ers like Gilead’s Kite and Bris­tol My­ers Squibb’s Juno. But they’re all-in on their tech plat­form, and be­lieve they have the prop­er man­u­fac­tur­ing ca­pa­bil­i­ties to boot.

The com­pa­ny plans to sub­mit its first IND to the FDA lat­er this year and head straight in­to a Phase II tri­al for melanoma with its lead TIL can­di­date, ITIL-168. In­stil is hope­ful that could lead to a sub­mis­sion for ap­proval some­time in 2023.

But giv­en the CMC is­sues that seem to trip up every gene ther­a­py play­er nowa­days, In­stil like­ly faces a long road ahead.

Con­nect looks to si­dle up to the com­pe­ti­tion — and Dupix­ent is up first

Con­nect Bio­phar­ma came up with the sec­ond-high­est raise of this week’s group, net­ting $191 mil­lion in their IPO haul.

The fig­ure is slight­ly high­er than the terms they set out late last week, when Con­nect $CNTB es­ti­mat­ed $150 mil­lion in a $15 to $17 share range. Ul­ti­mate­ly, the Chi­nese com­pa­ny priced at the high end of that spec­trum: $17.

Con­nect’s IPO comes af­ter the old pals from a uni­ver­si­ty in Guangzhou, Chi­na who found­ed the biotech se­cured a $115 mil­lion Se­ries C last Au­gust. As they tran­si­tion to be­com­ing a pub­lic com­pa­ny, they come with a pipeline of im­mune mod­u­la­tors.

Their port­fo­lio is led by an an­ti-IL-4Ra an­ti­body that they hope can treat in­flam­ma­to­ry al­ler­gic dis­eas­es such as atopic der­mati­tis, asth­ma, and chron­ic rhi­nos­i­nusi­tis with nasal polyps — mar­kets that have seen big in­vest­ment from world’s biggest phar­ma com­pa­nies. Con­nect’s lead ex­per­i­men­tal drug hits the same tar­get as Re­gen­eron and Sanofi’s Dupix­ent.

How will their pro­gram match up? All eyes are on a Phase IIb tri­al ex­pect­ed to read out topline da­ta in the sec­ond half of 2021. Con­nect be­lieves the as­says they used in drug dis­cov­ery could make them a best-in-class con­ten­der.

Finch hopes to move past the strug­gles of the mi­cro­bio­me field

Finch Ther­a­peu­tics al­so raised more mon­ey than orig­i­nal­ly es­ti­mat­ed. Af­ter pen­cil­ing $100 mil­lion in­to their S-1, Finch re­turned from the IPO well with a $128 mil­lion raise.

They al­so priced at the high end of their range, de­but­ing on the mar­ket Fri­day at $17 per share. The pub­lic de­but comes rough­ly six months af­ter its $90 mil­lion Se­ries C round.

Born from the ash­es of an im­plo­sion at Seres Ther­a­peu­tics that cloud­ed the mi­cro­bio­me field in 2017, Finch $FNCH is fo­cus­ing its re­search on an oral ther­a­py pro­gram that can de­liv­er a com­plete mi­cro­bio­me to the gut. The can­di­date, CP101, is be­ing test­ed in pa­tients with a C. dif­fi­cile in­fec­tion and has so far re­turned pos­i­tive re­sults for re­cur­rence-free bac­te­ria clear­an­ce.

A sec­ond tri­al for the pro­gram is ex­pect­ed to be­gin not long af­ter the IPO, with topline da­ta ex­pect­ed some­time in 2023. The study will like­ly have a sim­i­lar de­sign and size to the ear­li­er tri­al. Among 206 pa­tients, pa­tients giv­en CP101 had a 74.5% chance of re­cur­rence-free bac­te­ria clear­ance ver­sus 61.5% on the place­bo arm.

The com­pound it­self is a cap­sule made of freeze-dried stool sam­ples from healthy donors. The biotech is al­so plan­ning oth­er clin­i­cal stud­ies in chron­ic he­pati­tis B, in­flam­ma­to­ry bow­el dis­ease and autism spec­trum dis­or­der.

Gain goes pub­lic with pro­tein mis­fold­ing pro­grams

Gain pulls up the rear this week, suc­cess­ful­ly rais­ing the $40 mil­lion they orig­i­nal­ly out­lined in their S-1. The biotech priced at the mid­point of its range, de­but­ing Thurs­day at $11 per share.

Gain $GANX fo­cus­es on pro­tein mis­fold­ing, with an ini­tial goal of treat­ing lyso­so­mal stor­age dis­or­ders. They have ex­clu­sive­ly in-li­censed a pro­pri­etary plat­form to ac­com­plish this, and are tar­get­ing the GLB1 gene to cre­ate ther­a­pies for GM1 gan­gliosi­do­sis and the GBA1 Gauch­er’s dis­ease and Parkin­son’s.

As de­scribed in their SEC pa­per­work, the biotech is plan­ning to di­rect its IPO funds to­ward these can­di­dates, hope­ful­ly push­ing them in­to Phase I/II tri­als for their re­spec­tive in­di­ca­tions. Gain emerged from stealth last Ju­ly with a $10 mil­lion Se­ries B round, us­ing that fundraise to set up two IND-en­abling stud­ies.

Biotech in­vestors and CEOs see two paths to growth, but are they equal­ly vi­able?

The dynamic in the biotech market has been highly volatile in the last few years, from the high peaks immediately after the COVID vaccine in 2021, to the lowest downturns of the last 20 years in 2022. This uncertainty makes calling the exact timing of the market’s turn something of a fool’s errand, according to Dr. Chen Yu, Founder and Managing Partner of TCG Crossover (TCG X). He speaks with RBC’s Noël Brown, Head of US Biotechnology Investment Banking, about the market’s road ahead and two possible paths for growth.

Casey McPherson shows his daughters Rose (left) and Weston around Everlum Bio, a lab that he co-founded to spark a treatment for Rose and others with ultra-rare conditions. (Ilana Panich-Linsman)

Fa­ther starts lab af­ter in­tel­lec­tu­al prop­er­ty is­sues stymie rare dis­ease drug de­vel­op­ment

Under bright lab lights, Casey McPherson holds his 6-year-old daughter, Rose. His free hand directs Rose’s gaze toward a computer screen with potential clues in treating her one-of-a kind genetic condition.

Gray specks on the screen show her cells that scientists reprogrammed with the goal of zeroing in on a custom medicine. McPherson co-founded the lab, Everlum Bio, to spark a treatment for Rose — and others like her. A regarded singer-songwriter, McPherson never imagined going into drug development.

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Fireside chat between Hal Barron and John Carroll, UKBIO19

It’s time we talked about bio­phar­ma — live in Lon­don next week

Zoom can only go so far. And I think at this stage, we’ve all tested the limits of staying in touch — virtually. So I’m particularly happy now that we’ve revved up the travel machine to point myself to London for the first time in several years.

Whatever events we have lined up, we’ve always built in plenty of opportunities for all of us to get together and talk. For London, live, I plan to be right out front, meeting with and chatting with the small crowd of biopharma people we are hosting on October 12 at Silicon Valley Bank’s London headquarters. And there’s a lengthy mixer at the end I’m most looking forward to, with several networking openings between sessions.

Take­da to pull key hy­poparathy­roidism drug from the mar­ket af­ter years of man­u­fac­tur­ing woes

Takeda on Tuesday morning made an announcement that almost 3,000 people with the rare disease known as hypoparathyroidism were fearing.

Due to unresolved supply issues and manufacturing woes, Takeda said it will cut its losses and discontinue its hypoparathyroidism drug, known as Natpara (parathyroid hormone), halting all manufacturing of the drug by the end of 2024, but the entire inventory will be available until depleted or expired, a company spokesperson said via email.

Pfizer and BioNTech's original Marvel comic book links evolving Covid vaccine science to Avengers' evolving villain-fighting tools.(Source: Pfizer LinkedIn post)

Pfiz­er, BioN­Tech part­ner with Mar­vel for Avengers and Covid-fight­ing com­ic book

Pfizer and BioNTech are collaborating with Marvel to celebrate “everyday” people getting Covid-19 vaccines in a custom comic book.

In the “Everyday Heroes” digital comic book, an evolving Ultron, one of the Avengers’ leading villains, is defeated by Captain America, Ironman and others. The plotline and history of Ultron is explained by a grandfather who is waiting with his family at a clinic for Covid-19 vaccinations.

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FDA+ roundup: Ad­comm date set for Cy­to­ki­net­ics heart drug; New gener­ic drug guid­ance to re­duce fa­cil­i­ty de­lays

The FDA on Wednesday set Dec. 13 as the day that its Cardiovascular and Renal Drugs Advisory Committee will review Cytokinetics’ potential heart drug, meaning regulators aren’t likely to meet the Nov. 30 PDUFA date that was previously set.

The drug, known as omecamtiv mecarbil, read out its first Phase III in November 2020, hitting the primary endpoint of reducing the odds of hospitalization or other urgent care for heart failure by 8%. But it also missed a key secondary endpoint analysts had pegged as the key to breaking into the market, failing to significantly differ in reducing cardiovascular death from placebo.

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Af­ter Covid set­back, Val­ne­va lines up $100M for Pfiz­er-al­lied Ly­me dis­ease PhI­II

Valneva has secured €102.9 million (around $99.9 million USD) in a share offering to push forward its Pfizer-partnered Lyme disease vaccine and a jab for chikungunya that awaits an FDA decision.

The French vaccine maker largely snagged the near $100 million from Deep Track Capital and local state-owned Bpifrance, the company said Tuesday night. The capital injection is nearly equal to the amount Pfizer paid to nab equity in the company earlier this summer as part of the duo’s vaccine tie-up.

Valitor CEO Steven Lo (L) and president and CSO Wesley Jackson

A dozen years in the mak­ing, a UC Berke­ley spin­out nabs funds to take on the eye

Largely funded by government grants for the better part of its first decade, a UC Berkeley spinout has secured a new CEO and the funds to take its research into the clinic in early 2024.

The biotech, named by one of the co-founder’s daughters and originally scrapped together with NIH funds in the aftermath of the 2008-09 financial crisis, is also on a mission to upend the treatment of wet age-related macular degeneration, or AMD, with an injectable drug that it claims could be more durable than the “800-pound gorilla” in the room, Genentech’s Lucentis and Regeneron/Bayer’s Eylea.

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Car­olyn Bertozzi (Illustration: Assistant editor Kathy Wong for Endpoints News)

Car­olyn Bertozzi, re­peat biotech founder and launch­er of a field, shares in chem­istry No­bel win

Carolyn Bertozzi, predicted by some to become a Nobel laureate, clinched one of the world’s top awards in the wee hours of Wednesday, winning the Nobel Prize in Chemistry alongside a repeat winner and a Copenhagen researcher.

The Stanford professor, Morten Meldal of University of Copenhagen and 2001-awardee K. Barry Sharpless of Scripps shared the prize equally. The Nobel is sometimes split in quarters and/or halves.