Three biotechs hunt $336M-plus in a new round of IPOs — while Der­ma­vant pulls back

Raise mon­ey when you can, not when you must — the com­mon re­frain rang loud in two IPO fil­ings late Fri­day as ADC Ther­a­peu­tics and Fre­quen­cy Ther­a­peu­tics looked to top up their re­cent rais­es with mega IPOs.

But when you can’t, as Der­ma­vant found af­ter a sec­ond try, then quit­ting might be im­per­a­tive.

ADC and Fre­quen­cy were joined by lit­tle can­cer biotech Aprea Ther­a­peu­tics, seek­ing a col­lec­tive $336 mil­lion from Wall Street.

ADC Ther­a­peu­tics: $558M and count­ing

Chris Mar­tin ADC

Lau­sanne, Switzer­land-based ADC Ther­a­peu­tics is gun­ning for $150 mil­lion as it plots two piv­otal tri­als for its sig­na­ture and name­sake an­ti­body-drug con­ju­gates. AD­CT-402, which tar­gets CD19, is be­ing eval­u­at­ed in re­lapsed or re­frac­to­ry dif­fuse large B-cell lym­phoma; AD­CT-301 hits CD25 and is be­ing test­ed in stub­born cas­es of Hodgkin’s lym­phoma. As­sum­ing pos­i­tive re­sults, the com­pa­ny en­vi­sions BLA sub­mis­sions in late 2020 and the first half of 2022, re­spec­tive­ly.

The SEC fil­ing ar­rives two months af­ter CEO Chris Mar­tin brought the to­tal haul so far to $558.6 mil­lion by adding $103 mil­lion to a mam­moth $200 mil­lion Se­ries E.

ADC’s pitch cen­ters around a next-gen ap­proach to com­bin­ing an anti­gen-bind­ing an­ti­body with a cy­to­tox­ic pay­load, with the promise that its pyrroloben­zo­di­azepine (PBD) war­heads are “ap­prox­i­mate­ly 100 times more po­tent than war­heads used in cur­rent­ly mar­ket­ed AD­Cs.”

With a new in­fu­sion, the com­pa­ny plans to see two more ear­ly tri­als to fruition, in­clud­ing the CD22-tar­get­ing AD­CT-602 for acute lym­phoblas­tic leukemia and the AXL-tar­get­ing AD­CT-601 for sol­id tu­mors. Scal­ing up of com­mer­cial op­er­a­tions, along­side man­u­fac­tur­ing plans, will al­so be­gin in earnest.

Pe­ter Corr

Chair­man Pe­ter Corr and board mem­ber Stephen Evans-Freke stand to reap the biggest re­wards from the IPO, hav­ing se­cured a 42.7% stake through their pri­vate eq­ui­ty firm Au­ven Ther­a­peu­tics Man­age­ment. HP­WH, a stock cor­po­ra­tion tied to Swiss busi­ness Hans-Pe­ter Wild, con­trols 11.6% while As­traZeneca claims 7.1%.

Mar­tin, who was cred­it­ed for spin­ning off ADC from Spirogen af­ter he sold that ven­ture to As­traZeneca, holds 2.2% of the stock. CFO (and ex-CEO) Michael For­er has 1.7%.

Fre­quen­cy tunes in on $100M IPO

It has tak­en David Lucchi­no 2.5 years and $61.8 mil­lion to steer Fre­quen­cy out of stealth mode in­to a pub­lic de­but $FREQ, for which he’s set a $100 mil­lion goal.

David Lucchi­no

Lucchi­no, the CEO, and CSO Christo­pher Loose co-found­ed the biotech with Robert Langer back in 2014 based on the prog­en­i­tor cell ac­ti­va­tion tech in­vent­ed by the il­lus­tri­ous MIT re­searcher and Jeff Karp, a col­lab­o­ra­tor from Har­vard. The trio had pre­vi­ous­ly launched a medtech ven­ture to­geth­er that ul­ti­mate­ly sold for $30 mil­lion up­front.

The PCA plat­form is de­signed to gen­er­ate small mol­e­cules that spur re­gen­er­a­tion of tar­get cells. By tin­ker­ing with lo­cal prog­en­i­tor cells that are pre-pro­grammed to serve the pur­pose, the biotech be­lieves it can of­fer a safer and more ef­fi­ca­cious al­ter­na­tive to stem cell ther­a­pies.

Chris Loose

Fre­quen­cy is start­ing out with hair cells in the in­ner ear. Its lead drug can­di­date, FX-322, is in a Phase IIa tri­al with top-line da­ta ex­pect­ed in H2 2020. Astel­las has bought in­to ex-US de­vel­op­ment and com­mer­cial­iza­tion rights in a $625 mil­lion deal — $80 mil­lion up­front — an­nounced in Ju­ly. Soon af­ter­wards, the Woburn, MA-based biotech raised $62 mil­lion in Se­ries C cash.

An IND for the next pro­gram, one for mul­ti­ple scle­ro­sis, is planned for the sec­ond half of 2021, ac­cord­ing to the S-1.

In 2018 Lucchi­no took home a com­pen­sa­tion pack­age worth $743,700, while Loose got $578,134. Carl LeBel, the chief de­vel­op­ment of­fi­cer, re­ceived $477,721.

Per­cep­tive owns the largest chunk of shares at 7.8%, while Tai­wa­nia Cap­i­tal Man­age­ment Cor­po­ra­tion and Alexan­dria’s Joel Mar­cus each hold about 5%.

Aprea: All eggs in the p53 bas­ket

In the midst of re­cruit­ing for its first piv­otal tri­al, Aprea Ther­a­peu­tics has pen­ciled in $86 mil­lion for that and oth­er pro­grams around its lead drug, APR-246.

Chris­t­ian Schade

The Swedish com­pa­ny has all its eggs in the p53 bas­ket as the pro­tein is ex­pressed from TP53, a gene prone to mu­ta­tions in can­cer. APR-246, which is de­signed to re­ac­ti­vate mu­tant p53, is first di­rect­ed to myelodys­plas­tic syn­dromes in a com­bo with chemo. Both the FDA and the EMA have grant­ed or­phan sta­tus, with Eu­ro­pean reg­u­la­tors ex­tend­ing that des­ig­na­tion to acute myeloid leukemia and ovar­i­an can­cer.

David Sall­man of Mof­fitt Can­cer Cen­ter is a key col­lab­o­ra­tor in the US, sched­uled to give the fi­nal word on com­plete re­sponse rates from a Phase I/II study. Pierre Fe­naux is lead­ing an­oth­er study in France, which is al­so cit­ed to sup­port the up­com­ing Phase III (read­out slat­ed for 2020).

Al­so ex­pect­ed in 2020: an IND for APR-458, an oral p53 re­ac­ti­va­tor.

That ap­proach has at­tract­ed some high-pro­file in­vestors, all of whom are fea­tur­ing promi­nent­ly as prin­ci­pal stock­hold­ers: Karolin­s­ka De­vel­op­ment (17.21%), Ver­sant (17.73%), 5AM Ven­tures (17.73%), Health­Cap (14.77%), Red­mile Group (13.15%) and Sec­toral As­set Man­age­ment (10.35%). CEO Chris­t­ian Schade keeps 3.65%.

Aprea counts around $60 mil­lion in cash and cash equiv­a­lents.

Der­ma­vant fi­nal­ly gives up on IPO

Vivek Ra­maswamy’s der­ma­tol­ogy-fo­cused biotech off­shoot first filed for an IPO in March but post­poned a list­ing in June. Three months lat­er, Der­ma­vant has qui­et­ly con­ced­ed that $100 mil­lion raise is not hap­pen­ing any time soon by of­fi­cial­ly with­draw­ing.

Der­ma­vant was not iden­ti­fied among the five Vants that Sum­it­o­mo Dainip­pon gained con­trol of just a few days ago, but the $3 bil­lion cash deal does give the Japan­ese phar­ma an op­tion to buy up to six oth­er star­tups un­der the Roivant um­brel­la. Two pub­lic com­pa­nies — My­ovant and Urovant — were in­clud­ed in the pact.

Fol­low­ing Ra­maswamy’s strat­e­gy for spin­ning off themed com­pa­nies, Der­ma­vant ac­quired tap­inarof, a PhI­II-ready pso­ri­a­sis drug, from GSK. Todd Za­vod­nick was re­cruit­ed as CEO af­ter Jack­ie Fouse left for Agios.

The last cap­i­tal in­fu­sion for Der­ma­vant hap­pened last Au­gust when No­vaQue­st Cap­i­tal Man­age­ment pro­vid­ed $100 mil­lion “in ex­change for con­di­tion­al mile­stone pay­ments achieved by tap­inarof.”

A fa­vorite in Alex­ion’s C-suite is leav­ing, and some mighty sur­prised an­a­lysts aren’t the least bit hap­py about it

Analysts hate to lose a biotech CFO they’ve come to trust and admire — especially if they’re being blindsided by a surprise exit.

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While No­var­tis ban­ish­es Zol­gens­ma scan­dal scars — Bio­gen goes on a Spin­raza 'of­fen­sive'

While Novartis painstakingly works to mop up the stench of the data manipulation scandal associated with its expensive gene therapy for spinal muscular atrophy (SMA) Zolgensma— rival Biogen is attempting to expand the use of its SMA therapy, Spinraza. 

The US drugmaker $BIIB secured US approval for Spinraza for use in the often fatal genetic disease in 2016. The approval covered a broad range of patients with infantile-onset (most likely to develop Type 1) SMA. 

Jason Kelly. Mike Blake/Reuters via Adobe

Eye­ing big ther­a­peu­tic push, Gink­go bags $290M to build a cell pro­gram­ming em­pire

Ginkgo Bioworks is on a roll. Days after publicizing a plan to nurture new startups via partnerships with accelerators Y Combinator and Petri, the Boston biotech says it has raised another $290 million for its cell programming platform to reach further and wider.

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UP­DAT­ED: Speak­er Nan­cy Pelosi to un­veil bill for fed­er­al­ly ne­go­ti­at­ed drug prices

After months of buzz from both sides of the aisle, Speaker Nancy Pelosi will today introduce her plan to allow the federal government to negotiate prices for 250 prescription drugs, setting up a showdown with a pharmaceutical industry working overtime to prevent it.

The need to limit drug prices is a rare point of agreement between President Trump and Democrats, although the president has yet to comment on the proposal and will likely face pressure to back a more conservative option or no bill at all. Republican Senator Chuck Grassley is reportedly lobbying his fellow party members on a more modest proposal he negotiated with Democratic Senator Ron Wyden in July.

Jeff Kindler's Cen­trex­ion re­news bid to make pub­lic de­but

Jeffrey Kindler’s plan to take his biotech — which is developing a slate of non-opioid painkillers — public, is back on.

The Boston based company, led by former Pfizer $PFE chief Kindler, originally contemplated a $70 million to $80 million IPO last year— but eventually postponed that strategy. On Wednesday, the company revived its bid to make a public debut in a filing with the SEC — although no pricing details were disclosed.

David Grainger [file photo]

'Dis­con­nect the bas­tard­s' — one biotech's plan to break can­cer cell­s' uni­fied de­fens­es

Chemotherapy and radiotherapy are the current gladiators of cancer treatment, but they come with well-known limitations and side-effects. The emergence of immunotherapy — a ferocious new titan in oncologist’s toolbox — takes the brakes off the immune system to kill cancer cells with remarkable success in some cases, but the approach is not always effective. What makes certain forms of cancer so resilient? Scientists may have finally pieced together a tantalizing piece of the puzzle, and a new biotech is banking on a new approach to fill the gap.

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Zachary Hornby. Boundless

'A fourth rev­o­lu­tion in can­cer ther­a­pies': ARCH-backed Bound­less Bio flash­es big check, makes big­ger promis­es in de­but

It was the cellular equivalent of opening your car door and finding an active, roaring engine in the driver seat.

Scientists learned strands of DNA could occasionally appear outside of its traditional home in the nucleus in the 1970s, when they appeared as little, innocuous circles on microscopes; inexplicable but apparently innate. But not until UC San Diego’s Paul Mischel published his first study in Science in 2014 did researchers realize these circles were not only active but potentially overactive and driving some cancer tumors’ superhuman growth.

It’s fi­nal­ly over: Bio­gen, Ei­sai scrap big Alzheimer’s PhI­I­Is af­ter a pre­dictable BACE cat­a­stro­phe rais­es safe­ty fears

Months after analysts and investors called on Biogen and Eisai to scrap their BACE drug for Alzheimer’s and move on in the wake of a string of late-stage failures and rising safety fears, the partners have called it quits. And they said they were dropping the drug — elenbecestat — after the independent monitoring board raised concerns about…safety.

We don’t know exactly what researchers found in this latest catastrophe, but the companies noted in their release that investigators had determined that the drug was flunking the risk/benefit analysis.

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Mer­ck helps bankroll new part­ner Themis' game plan to fin­ish the chikun­gun­ya race and be­gin on­colyt­ic virus quest

As Themis gears up for a Phase III trial of its chikungunya vaccine, the Vienna-based biotech has closed out €40 million ($44 million) to foot the clinical and manufacturing bills.

Its heavyweight partners at Merck — which signed a pact around a mysterious “blockbuster indication” last month — jumped into the Series D, led by new investors Farallon Capital and Hadean Ventures. Adjuvant Capital also joined, as did current investors Global Health Investment Fund, aws Gruenderfonds, Omnes Capital, Ventech and Wellington Partners Life Sciences.