Dicerna Joins Biotech IPO Queue, Plans $69M Raise

Xconomy Boston — 

When Dicerna Pharmaceuticals hauled in $60 million back in August, CEO Doug Fambrough hinted that an IPO was on the way. The Watertown, MA-based company made good on that prediction this morning.

Dicerna has filed papers with the Securities and Exchange Commission outlining plans to raise up to $69 million from public investors through an IPO. Jefferies, Leerink Swann, and Stifel, Nicolaus & Co. will underwrite the offering. Dicerna aims to trade on the NASDAQ under the symbol “DRNA.”

Dicerna, which has a proprietary approach to silencing disease-related genes through RNA interference, has already raised about $110 million from a variety of investors. Domain Associates holds the largest stake (16.8 percent), though Skyline Ventures (14.7 percent), Deerfield Management (13.4 percent), RA Capital (13.4 percent), Abingworth Management (10.3 percent), Brookside Capital (9.4 percent), SR One (8.0 percent), and Oxford Biosciences (7.3 percent) are also significant shareholders.

Like other companies in the RNAi space, Dicerna is developing drugs that are designed to hit a disease at its roots by engineering RNA molecules that shut down the production of specific disease-causing proteins. Dicerna, however, does this differently than other companies in the space. While Cambridge, MA-based Alnylam Pharmaceuticals (NASDAQ: ALNY), for instance, engineers small RNAi molecules, Dicerna makes them a little bit longer, which is supposed to enable them to act a step earlier in the gene-silencing process, and thus be more potent and last longer in the body. The idea here is that Dicerna could, in theory, give its drugs in lower doses, produce them for less money, and administer them with fewer shots.

To be clear, however, while Dicerna has raised a lot of money so far, it hasn’t yet proven that its approach works in humans. It’ll just begin its first clinical trial for its first RNAi drug candidate this year. That experimental drug, DCR-M1711, is designed to hit the Myc gene, which while mutated in several forms of cancer, is an undruggable target—it can’t be hit by small molecules or antibodies. Dicerna is also developing another experimental RNAi drug, called DCR-PH1, to treat a rare, inherited genetic disease called primary hyperoxaluria type 1 that often leads to kidney failure. Dicerna will begin the first trial of DCR-PH1 in 2015.

Dicerna is also looking at another familiar, yet untouchable target, the KRAS gene, as well as certain rare diseases involving genes expressed in the liver, according to the IPO prospectus.

Dicerna had about $54.7 million in cash on hand as of Sept 30. It’ll primarily use the IPO dollars to advance its two lead drug candidates into clinical trials.