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Four More Through the IPO Door as Life Science Firms Raise $465M

Xconomy National — 

It’s been a strong year for biotech IPOs and Wednesday shaped up to be a particularly busy day as four life science firms debuted on the public markets.

So far this year, 72 companies have gone public, according to IPO research firm Renaissance Capital. That total is down 20 percent compared to the same period a year ago. But healthcare IPOs continue to lead the pack, with 33 companies going public—the most of any sector. Here’s a recap of Wednesday evening’s life science IPO activity.

Personalis led the way with an upsized IPO that raised $134 million. The Menlo Park, CA, company sold approximately 7.9 million shares priced at $17 apiece. Personalis had previously planned to sell 6.7 million in the range of $14 to $16 each. Those shares are expected to start trading on the Nasdaq later today under the stock symbol “PSNL.”

Personalis has commercialized a genome sequencing and analysis platform called NeXT that scientists can use to understand the cancer and immune response of a patient. Personalis is not developing its own drugs but instead works with pharmaceutical companies that use NeXT to aid their own drug discovery and development work.

In 2018, Personalis reported a $19.8 million loss on $37.7 million in revenue, according to its IPO filing. Personalis says the IPO proceeds will fund a facilities expansion, sales and marketing, and research and development. Next up in the Personalis pipeline is a liquid biopsy test that the company expects to launch in 2020.

Akero Therapeutics raised approximately $92 million from its IPO. The South San Francisco-based company sold approximately 5.7 million shares at $16 apiece, which was the high end of its targeted $14 to $16 per share range. Akero’s shares are expected to start trading on the Nasdaq later today under the stock symbol “AKRO.”

Akero licensed its lead drug, AKR-001, from Amgen (NASDAQ: AMGN). The biotech has advanced the drug to Phase 2a testing as a potential treatment for the liver disease nonalcoholic steatohepatitis, a type of fatty liver disease that has no FDA-approved therapy. Akero says in its prospectus that it plans to use $65 million of the IPO cash to complete the mid-stage study. The company also plans to spend approximately $10 million for research and development that includes potential applications of AKR-001 in other diseases.

Prevail Therapeutics, a gene therapy developer, raised $125 million in its stock market debut. The New York company priced its offering of approximately 7.3 million shares at $17 apiece, which was the midpoint of its targeted range. Prevail’s shares are expected to begin trading on the Nasdaq Thursday under the stock symbol “PRVL.”

Prevail is developing gene therapies to treat neurodegenerative disorders. The company’s lead program, PR001, is an experimental treatment for Parkinson’s disease. Prevail says in its prospectus that it will use $50 million to $60 million of the IPO proceeds to advance PR001 to a Phase 1/2 study enrolling Parkinson’s patients who have a particular genetic mutation. The company also plans to test the drug as a treatment for the neurological effects of Gaucher disease, an inherited enzyme deficiency.

Atreca’s IPO raised $113.8 million. The Redwood City, CA, company sold approximately 7.3 million shares for $17 apiece, which was the midpoint of the price range it had targeted. Atreca’s shares are expected to begin trading on the Nasdaq Thursday under the stock symbol “BCEL.”

Atreca says in its IPO filing that its proprietary technology uses the immune system to guide its discovery of pairs of antibodies and their targets. After the company spun out of Stanford University in 2010, its initial research was in vaccine development. The company is now focused on developing cancer immunotherapies. Atreca says it will use $45 million of the IPO cash to finance a Phase 1b study testing its lead drug, ATRC-101. The company says the drug could treat a range of solid tumors. Another $65 million is earmarked for discovering and developing other drugs.

—The biotech IPO activity for this week is not yet over. Skin drugs developer Dermavant Sciences is expected to price its IPO later today. When the London company set its IPO terms last week, it said it planned to sell 7.7 million shares in the price range of $12 to $14 each. At the midpoint of that range, Dermavant would raise approximately $100 million.

Dermavant is a portfolio company of Roivant Sciences, a firm that licenses compounds that large pharmaceutical companies have shelved. Dermavant’s lead drug candidate, tapinarof, came from GlaxoSmithKline (NYSE: GSK), where it was developed as a treatment for psoriasis and atopic dermatitis. In its IPO filing, Dermavant says it will use between $45 million and $55 million to fund two ongoing Phase 3 studies testing tapinarof in psoriasis. The IPO will also finance clinical studies for other drugs in the Dermavant pipeline.

Photo by Nasdaq