Black Diamond Lines Up IPO as Lead Cancer Drug Nears Clinic

Xconomy Boston — 

Cancer research is leading some companies to molecular targets that have eluded new medicines. Phase 1-ready biotech Black Diamond Therapeutics hopes its approach to such cancer targets leads it to the public markets.

Black Diamond filed paperwork with securities regulators late Friday for an IPO. The Cambridge, MA-based firm set a $100 million goal for the stock offering, a figure expected to change as the company determines how many shares to sell and at what price. Black Diamond has applied for a Nasdaq listing under the stock symbol “BDTX.”

Black Diamond is developing drugs to treat cancers with defined genetic mutations. The company has developed proprietary technology, dubbed Mutation Allostery Pharmacology (MAP), to analyze population-level genetic sequencing data in order to find mutations that drive cancer growth, according to the filing. The company says these mutations can be grouped into families that it aims to target with small molecule drugs. If the approach works, Black Diamond says its technology could lead to new drugs that reach more patients, overcoming limitations of currently available targeted therapies. For example, the company cites research showing that a type of targeted cancer therapy called kinase inhibitors are suitable only for a small percentage of patients whose cancers have the genetic profiles that make them eligible for treatment.

Lead Black Diamond drug candidate BDTX-189 is designed to block a family of cancer proteins found across a number of tumor types. The company says its targeted approach to cancer proteins should avoid the toxic effects of currently available kinase inhibitors. Those side effects include rash and diarrhea. But Black Diamond isn’t the only company trying to develop targeted cancer therapies. Potential competitors listed in the filing include Eli Lilly (NYSE: LLY) unit Loxo Oncology, BluePrint Medicines (NASDAQ BPMC), Deciphera Pharmaceuticals (NASDAQ: DCPH), Turning Point Therapeutics (NASDAQ: TPTX), and Mirati Therapeutics (NASDAQ: MRTX).

Preclinical data for BDTX-189 were presented in September during a meeting of the European Society for Medical Oncology. Last month, Black Diamond received the FDA’s green light to proceed with Phase 1/2 study testing the drug. The goal of the Phase 1 portion of the study is to establish the dose to test in Phase 2 in patients with bladder cancer, endometrial cancer, and other solid tumors. The Phase 1 portion, which will enroll up to 84 patients, is expected to start in the first half of this year. The Black Diamond pipeline also includes a preclinical program in glioblastoma, an aggressive brain cancer.

Black Diamond was incubated within a drug discovery unit set up by venture capital firm Versant Ventures. In late 2018, the company quietly revealed its initial approach to drug discovery and development, along with some early funding. About a year ago, the biotech closed $85 million in Series B financing.

As of Sept. 30, Black Diamond reported cash holdings of about $78.7 million. The company’s plans for the IPO cash include financing Phase 1/2 tests of BDTX-189 and advancing preclinical development of its glioblastoma drug.

Black Diamond has raised more than $192 million, most recently an $85 million Series C round in November, according to the filing. Versant is the largest shareholder, owning about 42 percent, according to the filing. New Enterprise Associates owns about 11 percent.

Image by the National Cancer Institute and Steve Seung-Young Lee/University of Chicago Comprehensive Cancer Center