The pan­dem­ic IPOs keep rolling, as Gen­er­a­tion, Avid­i­ty, Vax­cyte each claim 200M+

If it wasn’t al­ready, biotech’s pan­dem­ic IPO boom is in full swing.

Af­ter a week that saw the largest Chi­nese biotech IPO in his­to­ry and an­oth­er $154 mil­lion for a com­pa­ny that emerged on­ly last Sep­tem­ber, four dif­fer­ent biotechs raised over $200 mil­lion. Each of them up­sized their of­fer­ings or priced at the top end — or more — of their orig­i­nal range.

Col­lec­tive­ly, they raised $926 mil­lion, or an av­er­age of $231 mil­lion per com­pa­ny.

The new rais­es are part of a broad­er trend, as in­vestors have flocked to biotech stocks as is­lands of sta­bil­i­ty in an in­creas­ing­ly rocky and pan­dem­ic-strick­en stock mar­ket. Large­ly, that’s meant bal­loon­ing val­u­a­tions for pub­lic com­pa­nies, such as Mod­er­na and Vir, who are mak­ing treat­ments or vac­cines for Covid-19.

But the com­pa­nies go­ing pub­lic this week don’t have large Covid-19 pro­grams. They con­sist of a Chi­nese can­cer de­tec­tion com­pa­ny and three com­pa­nies that are still pre­clin­i­cal, a stage when it used to be rare for com­pa­nies to go pub­lic, let alone raise vast cap­i­tal. The new rounds are a con­tin­u­a­tion of that trend, glimpses of which were seen be­fore the out­break hit the US, as the mar­ket showed an ap­petite for such ear­ly-stage ven­tures.

Six pre­clin­i­cal biotechs have now raised over $150 mil­lion in 2020, com­pared with just two over the pre­vi­ous three years, ac­cord­ing to num­bers from Re­nais­sance Cap­i­tal. That in­cludes David Liu’s Beam Ther­a­peu­tics, which raised $180 mil­lion on a base pair edit­ing plat­form in Feb­ru­ary, Jim Wil­son’s Pas­sage Bio, and Ver­sant’s Black Di­a­mond Ther­a­peu­tics.

Ge­off Mc­Do­nough Gen­er­a­tion

Gen­er­a­tion Bio was the first com­pa­ny to go pub­lic this week, grab­bing $200 mil­lion in a twice-up­sized of­fer­ing. Run by Gen­zyme vet Ge­off Mc­Do­nough, it’s de­vel­op­ing gene ther­a­pies that can be de­liv­ered by lipid nanopar­ti­cles in­stead of vi­ral vec­tors. The idea is that the nanopar­ti­cles can last as long as the now-com­mon ade­no-as­so­ci­at­ed virus­es, while be­ing eas­i­er to scale and sell for less than the cur­rent mul­ti-mil­lion dol­lar price tags for gene ther­a­pies.

In Jan­u­ary, the com­pa­ny raised $110 mil­lion, bring­ing their to­tal to $235 mil­lion. At the time, Mc­Do­nough told End­points News they might look for an IPO in 12 to 18 months to fund their clin­i­cal work.

Avid­i­ty Bio­sciences, an Eli Lil­ly-backed an­ti­sense biotech, priced at $14 to $16, up­sized the range to $17 to $18, and then priced at the high end of that, earn­ing $259 mil­lion in the end. The com­pa­ny works on mus­cle dis­or­ders, par­tic­u­lar­ly my­oton­ic mus­cu­lar dy­s­tro­phy. They com­bine an­ti­sense oligonu­cleotides — an old way of drug­ging RNA — with hom­ing an­ti­bod­ies to cre­ate what they call an­ti­body oligonu­cleotides con­ju­gates. The idea is that the an­ti­body will guide the an­ti­sense to se­quences that were pre­vi­ous­ly dif­fi­cult to tar­get. Their last round was in No­vem­ber, for $100 mil­lion.

Vax­cyte filed for its IPO ex­act­ly two months af­ter it raised $110 mil­lion in a Se­ries D, and end­ed up rais­ing $249 mil­lion. At the time of the last raise, it was known as SutroVax — a holdover from its days as a spin­out of Sutro Bio­phar­ma — but they changed their name and lo­go in ad­vance of fil­ing for what was orig­i­nal­ly sten­ciled as a $100 mil­lion IPO.

There may be no bet­ter time to go pub­lic as a vac­cine com­pa­ny, and the re­turn of vac­cines to the cen­ter of pub­lic at­ten­tion may have boost­ed their over­all raise, but Vax­cyte is work­ing on a far dif­fer­ent mar­ket and type of in­oc­u­la­tion than coro­n­avirus. The com­pa­ny is try­ing to cre­ate a fol­low-up to Pre­vnar13, the Pfiz­er pneu­mo­nia vac­cine that’s earned over $30 bil­lion in one of the few block­buster vac­cine mar­kets. Vax­cyte’s lead prod­uct is meant to guard against 24 strains of bac­te­ria, in­stead of Pre­vnar’s 13, and is com­pet­ing against ex­per­i­men­tal in­oc­u­la­tions at Pfiz­er and else­where.

In the fi­nal large raise, Il­lu­mi­na-part­nered Burn­ing Rock Biotech, a DNA-se­quenc­ing based can­cer de­tec­tion com­pa­ny, earned $223 mil­lion, pric­ing a dol­lar above their orig­i­nal $13.50 to $15.50 range. They got to ring the open­ing bell to­day at the Nas­daq.

And on a small­er note, AI-fo­cused Chi­nese biotech, Lantern Phar­ma had an ever-so-slight­ly up­sized IPO. They filed for $25 mil­lion and raised $26 mil­lion.

Roivant par­lays a $450M chunk of eq­ui­ty in biotech buy­out, grab­bing a com­pu­ta­tion­al group to dri­ve dis­cov­ery work

New Roivant CEO Matt Gline has crafted an all-equity upfront deal to buy out a Boston-based biotech that has been toiling for several years now at building a supercomputing-based computational platform to design new drugs. And he’s adding it to the Erector set of science operations that are being built up to support their network of biotech subsidiaries with an eye to growing the pipeline in a play to create a new kind of pharma company.

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Tar­get­ing a Po­ten­tial Vul­ner­a­bil­i­ty of Cer­tain Can­cers with DNA Dam­age Re­sponse

Every individual’s DNA is unique, and because of this, every patient responds differently to disease and treatment. It is astonishing how four tiny building blocks of our DNA – A, T, C, G – dictate our health, disease, and how we age.

The tricky thing about DNA is that it is constantly exposed to damage by sources such as ultraviolet light, certain chemicals, toxins, and even natural biochemical processes inside our cells.¹ If ignored, DNA damage will accumulate in replicating cells, giving rise to mutations that can lead to premature aging, cancer, and other diseases.

CEO Fred Aslan (Artiva)

NK cell ther­a­py play­er Arti­va makes some more noise, pulling in $120M Se­ries B less than a month af­ter Mer­ck deal

Not even one month after Big Pharma took notice of Artiva when Merck signed a collaboration worth nearly $2 billion in milestones, the off-the-shelf NK cell biotech already has its next big fundraise.

Artiva returns from the venture well Friday with a $120 million Series B round, money they will use to get their first program into the clinic and to file INDs for another two candidates. The raise marks the latest development in a rapidly expanding footprint for Artiva, which, in addition to the Merck deal last month, has now raised almost $200 million since its Series A last June.

Fol­low biotechs go­ing pub­lic with the End­points News IPO Track­er

The Endpoints News team is continuing to track IPO filings for 2021, and we’ve designed a new tracker page for the effort.

Check it out here: Biopharma IPOs 2021 from Endpoints News

You’ll be able to find all the biotechs that have filed and priced so far this year, sortable by quarter and listed by newest first. As of the time of publishing on Feb. 25, there have already been 16 biotechs debuting on Nasdaq so far this year, with an additional four having filed their S-1 paperwork.

Ken Frazier, Merck CEO (Bess Adler/Bloomberg via Getty Images)

UP­DAT­ED: Mer­ck takes a swing at the IL-2 puz­zle­box with a $1.85B play for buzzy Pan­dion and its au­toim­mune hope­fuls

When Roger Perlmutter bid farewell to Merck late last year, the drugmaker perhaps best known now for sales giant Keytruda signaled its intent to take a swing at early-stage novelty with the appointment of discovery head Dean Li. Now, Merck is signing a decent-sized check to bring an IL-2 moonshot into the fold.

Merck will shell out roughly $1.85 billion for Pandion Pharmaceuticals, a biotech hoping to gin up regulatory T cells (Tregs) to treat a range of autoimmune disorders, the drugmaker said Thursday.

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The path to NASH: un­der­stand­ing the role of se­vere obe­si­ty in a com­plex, mul­ti-sys­tem dis­ease

Biotech Voices is a collection of exclusive opinion editorials from some of the leading voices in biopharma on the biggest industry questions today. Think you have a voice that should be heard? Reach out to senior editors Kyle Blankenship and Amber Tong.

We often think a person’s transition from a healthy to a diseased state is binary. But that’s often not the case. In reality, the onset of a disease is not something that occurs overnight, and the majority lie on a continuum that is impacted by a multitude of factors. Some of these factors are in a patient’s control. Others are not.

This is the case in nonalcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) and nonalcoholic steatohepatitis (NASH), two of the most complex diseases that “live” on this proverbial continuum. The clinical onset of NAFLD — and ultimately NASH — is a complex process that is closely related to obesity, insulin resistance and impaired adipose tissue metabolism.

With dust set­tled on ac­tivist at­tack, Lau­rence Coop­er leaves Zio­pharm to a new board

Laurence Cooper has done his part.

In the five years since he left a tenured position at Houston’s MD Anderson Cancer Center to become CEO of Boston-based Ziopharm, he’s steered the small-cap immunotherapy player through patient deaths in trials, clinical holds, short attacks and, most recently, an activist attack on the board.

So when the company has “fantastic news” like an IND clearance for a TCR T cell therapy program, he’s ready to pass on the baton.

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Doug Ingram (file photo)

Why not? Sarep­ta’s third Duchenne MD drug sails to ac­cel­er­at­ed ap­proval

Sarepta may be running into some trouble with its next-gen gene therapy approach to Duchenne muscular dystrophy. But when it comes to antisense oligonucleotides, the well-trodden regulatory path is still leading straight to an accelerated approval for casimersen, now christened Amondys 45.

We just have to wait until 2024 to find out if it works.

Amondys 45’s approval was unceremonious, compared to its two older siblings. There was no controversy within the FDA over approving a drug based on a biomarker rather than clinical benefit, setting up a powerful precedent that still haunts acting FDA commissioner Janet Woodcock as biotech insiders weighed her potential permanent appointment; no drama like the FDA issuing a stunning rejection only to reverse its decision and hand out an OK four months later, which got more complicated after the scathing complete response letter was published; no anxious tea leaf reading or heated arguments from drug developers and patient advocates who were tired of having corticosteroids as their loved ones’ only (sometimes expensive) option.

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Steve Cutler, Icon CEO (Icon)

In the biggest CRO takeover in years, Icon doles out $12B for PRA Health Sci­ences to fo­cus on de­cen­tral­ized clin­i­cal work

Contract research M&A had a healthy run in recent years before recently petering out. But with the market ripe for a big buyout and the Covid-19 pandemic emphasizing the importance of decentralized trials, Wednesday saw a tectonic shift in the CRO world.

Icon, the Dublin-based CRO, will acquire PRA Health Sciences for $12 billion in a move that will shake up the highest rungs of a fragmented market. The merger would combine the 5th- and 6th-largest CROs by 2020 revenue, according to Icon, and the merger will set the newco up to be the second-largest global CRO behind only IQVIA.

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