The global economy is in tumult as the new coronavirus sparks financial contagion but drug developer Imara pressed ahead with its IPO anyway, raising $75.2 million in its stock market debut.
Late Wednesday, Imara offered 4.7 million shares for $16 apiece, which was the low end of its projected price range. The Boston-based company had previously planned to offer 4.45 million shares in the range of $16 to $18 each. Imara shares are set to begin trading on the Nasdaq Thursday under the stock symbol “IMRA.”
It could be difficult for other companies to follow Imara to the public markets, at least in the near term. The coronavirus outbreak is expected to shut down the spring IPO market, according to Renaissance Capital. The current market volatility makes it nearly impossible to price most IPOs, which means the IPO window in the summer will be narrower and more companies may choose instead to hold off on a public stock offering until the fall, the IPO research firm says.
But Imara has its IPO cash and it will continue its research on drugs for rare blood conditions. Its lead compound, IMR-687, is an experimental treatment for sickle cell disease, an inherited disorder that causes hemoglobin to take the shape or a crescent or sickle. This shape causes circulatory problems and other complications.
IMR-687 is intended to promote the activation of fetal hemoglobin, a natural form of hemoglobin produced during fetal development. The drug is a small molecule designed to block a signaling protein called PDE9. Imara says its drug addresses sickle cell with a “multimodal” approach. In addition to increasing the production of fetal hemoglobin, the drug also reduces the formation of red blood cells into sickle shapes. The company adds that the drug decreases the expression of molecules that cause blood cells to stick to each other and to the interior of blood vessels.
Imara has advanced IMR-687 into mid-stage testing in sickle cell disease. The company says in its IPO documents that it expects to report preliminary Phase 2a data in the fourth quarter of this year. Based on the interim Phase 2a data, Imara says it will proceed with two Phase 2b studies in the first half of this year, one in in sickle cell disease and the other in beta thalassemia, another rare blood disorder. Preliminary data from both studies are expected in the first half of 2021.
Image: iStock/Christian Meurer