Two more biotechs price IPOs, bring­ing to­tal raise to record heights

Atea Phar­ma­ceu­ti­cals and SQZ Biotech­nolo­gies have priced their pub­lic de­buts, adding to this year’s record biotech IPO raise — a pot spilling over $13 bil­lion that dwarfs the to­tal rais­es of the last four years.

Last Fri­day, Nas­daq head of health­care list­ings Jor­dan Saxe count­ed 72 biotech and bio­phar­ma IPOs this year, to­geth­er rais­ing $13.2 bil­lion. He pegged a “fair es­ti­mate” of 75 de­buts and just un­der $14 bil­lion in pro­ceeds to round out the year.

On Thurs­day, Atea priced an up­sized of­fer­ing at $24 per share — the high end of a $22 to $24 range. The Boston-based biotech ini­tial­ly sought a $100 mil­lion raise, ac­cord­ing to an S-1 filed ear­li­er this month. On Mon­day, Atea set the terms at 11 mil­lion shares, which would have net­ted $232.1 mil­lion at the mid­point of its price range. But on Thurs­day, the com­pa­ny bumped its of­fer­ing up to 12.5 mil­lion shares, reel­ing in $300 mil­lion.

Atea is work­ing on an­tivi­ral ther­a­peu­tics to treat sin­gle-strand­ed ri­bonu­cle­ic acid (ss­R­NA) virus­es. It plans on pour­ing $300 mil­lion in­to its lead can­di­date, AT-527, which is cur­rent­ly in a Phase II tri­al to treat mod­er­ate Covid-19, with topline re­sults ex­pect­ed in the first half of next year. This month, Roche agreed to pay $350 mil­lion for de­vel­op­ment and com­mer­cial­iza­tion rights to AT-527 out­side of the US.

An­oth­er $60 mil­lion will see Atea’s AT-787 pro­gram for he­pati­tis C virus (HCV) through a Phase II tri­al, ac­cord­ing to the com­pa­ny’s S-1/A. About $40 mil­lion will go to­ward AT-752 for the treat­ment of dengue, and $60 mil­lion will go to­ward de­vel­op­ment of AT-889, AT-934 and oth­er can­di­dates for the treat­ment of res­pi­ra­to­ry syn­cy­tial virus (RSV).

As of June, the rough­ly six-year-old biotech had burned through $68.2 mil­lion.

SQZ, on the oth­er hand, priced at the low end of its range: over 4.4 mil­lion shares at $16 apiece. The biotech filed for a $75 mil­lion IPO ear­li­er this month, and ac­cord­ing to the S-1/A, pric­ing shares at $17 (the mid­point of the com­pa­ny’s range), would have brought in just $66.7 mil­lion.

The biotech, pro­nounced “squeeze,” launched from the lab of MIT’s Bob Langer in 2013. Cur­rent CEO Ar­mon Sharei helped dis­cov­er the tech­nol­o­gy as a PhD stu­dent, which squeezes cells through a mi­croflu­idic chip, cre­at­ing an open­ing for drug­mak­ers to slip ma­te­ri­als in­to the cell more ef­fec­tive­ly.

Us­ing IPO pro­ceeds and ex­ist­ing cash, SQZ plans on throw­ing $75 mil­lion in­to its lead can­di­date, SQZ-PBMC-HPV, de­signed to at­tack HPV+ tu­mors. The can­di­date is in Phase I as a monother­a­py and com­bi­na­tion ther­a­py with oth­er im­muno-on­col­o­gy agents for HPV16+ ad­vanced or metasta­t­ic sol­id tu­mors. “We ex­pect to ini­ti­ate the com­bi­na­tion por­tion of the tri­al in the first half of 2021 and ex­pect ini­tial da­ta in the sec­ond half of 2021,” the S-1/A states.

An­oth­er $25 mil­lion will go to the first clin­i­cal tri­al of its oth­er HPV+ can­di­date, SQZ-AAC-HPV. As of June, the com­pa­ny had blown through $96.8 mil­lion.

Sharei, whose 2019 base salary was $460,000, holds just over 3.6% of the com­pa­ny’s shares, ac­cord­ing to the S-1/A.

Biogen CEO Michel Vounatsos (via Getty Images)

With ad­u­canum­ab caught on a cliff, Bio­gen’s Michel Vounatsos bets bil­lions on an­oth­er high-risk neu­ro play

With its FDA pitch on the Alzheimer’s drug aducanumab hanging perilously close to disaster, Biogen is rolling the dice on a $3.1 billion deal that brings in commercial rights to one of the other spotlight neuro drugs in late-stage development — after it already failed its first Phase III.

The big biotech has turned to Sage Therapeutics for its latest deal, close to a year after the crushing failure of Sage-217, now dubbed zuranolone, in the MOUNTAIN study.

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Pascal Soriot (AP Images)

As­traZeneca, Ox­ford on the de­fen­sive as skep­tics dis­miss 70% av­er­age ef­fi­ca­cy for Covid-19 vac­cine

On the third straight Monday that the world wakes up to positive vaccine news, AstraZeneca and Oxford are declaring a new Phase III milestone in the fight against the pandemic. Not everyone is convinced they will play a big part, though.

With an average efficacy of 70%, the headline number struck analysts as less impressive than the 95% and 94.5% protection that Pfizer/BioNTech and Moderna have boasted in the past two weeks, respectively. But the British partners say they have several other bright spots going for their candidate. One of the two dosing regimens tested in Phase III showed a better profile, bringing efficacy up to 90%; the adenovirus vector-based vaccine requires minimal refrigeration, which may mean easier distribution; and AstraZeneca has pledged to sell it at a fraction of the price that the other two vaccine developers are charging.

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Carl Hansen, AbCellera CEO (University of British Columbia)

From a pair of Air Jor­dans to a $200M-plus IPO, Carl Hansen is craft­ing an overnight R&D for­tune fu­eled by Covid-19

Back in the summer of 2019, Carl Hansen left his post as a professor at the University of British Columbia to go full time as the CEO at a low-profile antibody shop he had founded called AbCellera.

As biotech CEOs go, even after a fundraise Hansen wasn’t paid a whole heck of a lot. He ended up earning right at $250,000 for the year. His compensation package included a loan — which he later paid back — and a pair of Air Jordan tennis shoes. His newly-hired CFO, Andrew Booth, got a sweeter pay packet than that — which included his own pair of Air Jordans.

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Jason Kelly, Ginkgo Bioworks CEO (Kyle Grillot/Bloomberg via Getty Images)

Af­ter Ko­dak de­ba­cle, US lends $1.1B to a syn­thet­ic bi­ol­o­gy com­pa­ny and their big Covid-19, mR­NA plans

In mid-August, as Kodak’s $765 million government-backed push into drug manufacturing slowly fell apart in national headlines, Ginkgo Bioworks CEO Jason Kelly got a message from his company’s government liaison: HHS wanted to know if they, too, might want a loan.

The government’s decision to lend Kodak three quarters of a billion dollars raised eyebrows because Kodak had never made drugs before. But Ginkgo, while not a manufacturing company, had spent the last decade refining new ways to produce materials inside cells and building automated facilities across Boston.

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Chi­na opens the door for biotech in­vestors in Hong Kong to buy Shang­hai stocks, and vice ver­sa

When Shanghai’s STAR board began opening its doors to biotech, it was considered not just a rival to Nasdaq but also the stock exchange in Hong Kong. Those perceptions may take an amicable turn as China expands a mutual access program with the city.

The changes mean investors in mainland China will be able to own Hong Kong biotech chapter stocks, while those in Hong Kong — a much more internationally connected group — would have access to those listed on STAR. In effect, it turns the Shanghai market into a globally accessible exchange overnight while also broadening a key source of revenue for HKEX.

Overnight for­tunes are be­ing made in biotech these days — and it's both en­cour­ag­ing and more than a lit­tle bit scary

Just to complete the last leg of a running story I’ve been tracking for a few weeks, Olema $OLMA has come through its IPO from the Thursday night pricing at $19 a share with a market cap just north of $2 billion.

That leaves newly-named CEO Sean Bohen holding a batch of 1,110,896 shares with a strike price of $4.82. As of Tuesday morning, the stock is now trading at $53.40, giving him a portfolio value of $53.4 million. Not bad for someone who was hired in September.

The ad­u­canum­ab co­nun­drum: The PhI­II failed a clear reg­u­la­to­ry stan­dard, but no one is cer­tain what that means any­more at the FDA

Eighteen days ago, virtually all of the outside experts on an FDA adcomm got together to mug the agency’s Billy Dunn and the Biogen team when they presented their upbeat assessment on aducanumab. But here we are, more than 2 weeks later, and the ongoing debate over that Alzheimer’s drug’s fate continues unabated.

Instead of simply ruling out any chance of an approval, the logical conclusion based on what we heard during that session, a series of questionable approvals that preceded the controversy over the agency’s recent EUA decisions has come back to haunt the FDA, where the power of precedent is leaving an opening some experts believe can still be exploited by the big biotech.

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John Maraganore, Alnylam CEO (Scott Eisen/Bloomberg via Getty Images)

UP­DAT­ED: Al­ny­lam gets the green light from the FDA for drug #3 — and CEO John Maraganore is ready to roll

Score another early win at the FDA for Alnylam.

The FDA put out word today that the agency has approved its third drug, lumasiran, for primary hyperoxaluria type 1, better known as PH1. The news comes just 4 days after the European Commission took the lead in offering a green light.

An ultra rare genetic condition, Alnylam CEO John Maraganore says there are only some 1,000 to 1,700 patients in the US and Europe at any particular point. The patients, mostly kids, suffer from an overproduction of oxalate in the liver that spurs the development of kidney stones, right through to end stage kidney disease.

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Bob Nelsen (Photo by Michael Kovac/Getty Images)

Bob Nelsen rais­es $800M and re­cruits a star-stud­ded board to build the 'Fox­con­n' of biotech

Bob Nelsen spent his pandemic spring in his Seattle home, talking on the phone with Luciana Borio, the scientist who used to run pandemic preparedness on the National Security Council, and fuming with her about the dire state of American manufacturing.

Companies were rushing to develop vaccines and antibodies for the new virus, but even if they succeeded, there was no immediate supply chain or infrastructure to mass-produce them in a way that could make a dent in the outbreak.

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