Unum Therapeutics stumbles on its Nasdaq debut, raising $69M and some transparency issues

Unum Therapeutics is limping out onto Nasdaq this morning after raising close to $70 million from the sale of its stock.

Unum priced 5.8 million shares $UMRX at $12 each, the bottom end of the range. That’s not a defeat, but it’s no big win, either.

The Cambridge, MA-based biotech attracted a flurry of attention when it filed for its IPO, but not for the reasons it would have liked. The company revealed in its S-1 filing a few weeks ago that two patients in the high-dose arm of a clinical trial for their lead cancer drug died, forcing the FDA to slap a clinical hold on the trial which was dropped just before they made their bid to go public.

Chuck Wilson, Unum CEO

The then private company may not have violated any rules in the process, but they didn’t impress anyone with a commitment to transparency, either. It also likely didn’t help that this all played out just after Solid Biosciences kept a partial hold for their lead drug on the down low right up until they sold shares — and then got hammered after an adverse reaction triggered a full hold soon after.

That sudden about-face triggered a rout of Solid’s share price and a flurry of lawsuits — underscoring the dangers of going public with one strike against you.

Unum — one of many that has built a rep around a top team and reliable venture backers — has been building a new cell therapy that engineers patient’s T cells into a double whammy on cancer cells. The cells are first designed to express ACTR, a chimeric protein encompassing proteins from T cells and natural killer cells, then combined with another tumor-specific drug, whipping up a cytotoxic assault on cancer cells. The lead drug is ACTR087, and Unum compares it to Gilead’s Yescarta and Novartis’ Kymriah, the two pioneering CAR-Ts on the market.

Seeing similar toxicity issues as the early CAR-Ts, though, wasn’t on the agenda.

Researchers concluded that there were two cases of ACTR087-related severe CRS — one fatal — and one patient died from ACTR087-related neurotoxicity. There was one fatal case of enterococcal sepsis considered related to ACTR087 and “one patient subsequently experienced a fatal case of sepsis considered not related to ACTR087,” according to the S-1.

Morgan Stanley and Cowen are acting as joint book-running managers for the offering. SunTrust Robinson Humphrey and Wedbush PacGrow are acting as lead managers.

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Research Scientist - Immunology
Recursion Pharmaceuticals Salt Lake City, UT
Director of Operations
Atlas Venture Cambridge, MA

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