Bio Roundup: Mammoth Moves, Black Diamond’s Pop, Ohana’s Debut & More

Xconomy National — 

If this week is any indication, the steady march of life science companies to Wall Street will continue in 2020. Black Diamond Therapeutics is leading the way, having raised $201 million from its IPO. In its first day of trading, the cancer drug developer watched its shares soar more than 108 percent.

Black Diamond’s stock price rise shows that investors continue to be interested in companies developing kinase inhibitors for solid tumors, according to IPO research firm Renaissance Capital. That IPO “pop” is also a sign that this year will be an active one for biotech companies going public. Renaissance counts 52 biotechs that have gone public since the start of last year. Arcutis Biotherapeutics and Annovis Bio also joined this week and more are on the way. Beam Therapeutics and Schrödinger are expected to price their IPOs next week.

In other news this week, a mega-merger moved closer to completion, a startup unveiled big CRISPR plans, and a forgotten drug flashed signs of blockbuster potential. Let’s get to those stories and more in this week’s roundup.

WELCOME TO WALL STREET

—Black Diamond Therapeutics (NASDAQ: BDTX) sold its shares above the targeted price range, raising $201 million in its IPO. The company plans to use the proceeds to continue development of its cancer drug pipeline, including a lead compound that is ready to start clinical testing.

—Annovis Bio (NYSE American: ANVS) raised $12 million from its IPO to continue clinical development of its lead drug in Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease.

—Arcutis Biotherapeutics priced its IPO at $17 per share, the high end of its targeted price range. The Westlake Village, CA, company will apply the nearly $160 million in proceeds toward clinical development of its dermatology drugs.

—Two biotechs announced plans to enter the public market through reverse mergers with struggling publicly listed companies: Histogen struck an agreement to list on the Nasdaq after merging with Conatus Pharmaceuticals (NASDAQ: CNAT) and Timber Pharmaceuticals said it planned to combine with BioPharmX (NYSE American: BPMX).

DOLLARS & DEALS

Mammoth Biosciences closed a $45 million Series B round to develop new CRISPR diagnostics and therapies that use Cas14, an enzyme whose smaller size gives it advantages over Cas9.

—Allergan (NYSE: AGN) agreed to sell two of its drugs to ease antitrust concerns from regulators reviewing its $63 billion acquisition by AbbVie (NYSE: ABBV).

Quench Bio emerged from stealth with $50 million in Series A financing and a new approach to developing drugs addressing inflammatory disorders.

—Lyra Therapeutics closed $30 million in Series C financing to continue clinical testing of its lead compounds as potential treatments for chronic rhinosinusitis.

DRUG DEVELOPMENTS

Decibel Therapeutics implemented a corporate restructuring that laid off an undisclosed number of employees, named a new CEO, and shifted some resources toward regenerative therapies for the inner ear.

—Sotatercept, an Acceleron Pharma (NASDAQ: XLRN) drug that did not work out as a treatment for a rare blood disorder or chronic kidney disease, hit the main goals of a mid-stage study testing it in pulmonary arterial hypertension. If approved, some analysts say the drug could become a blockbuster.

—Spring Bank Pharmaceuticals (NASDAQ: SBPH) is ending its hepatitis B research after serious side effects, including one patient death, were reported in a Phase 2 study.

—GlaxoSmithKline (NYSE: GSK) licensed a tuberculosis vaccine candidate to the Bill & Melinda Gates Medical Research Institute, the nonprofit biotech unit of the Gates Foundation. The foundation was among the funders of the research that spurred the development of the experimental vaccine, which showed in Phase 2 testing the potential to reduce TB.

DATA AND DECISIONS

Gender and racial diversity in the life science industry still needs improvement, according to a report from the Biotechnology Industry Organization. Interestingly, small privately held companies fared better than their larger publicly traded counterparts on several diversity measures, the report shows.

—The FDA approved Trijardy, a new diabetes drug from Eli Lilly (NYSE: LLY) and Boehringer Ingelheim that combines three type 2 diabetes medicines in a single pill.

—Lilly and partner Incyte (NASDAQ: INCY) reported that their drug baricitinib met the main goal of a pivotal study in atopic dermatitis, and the companies plan to submit regulatory applications in the US and Japan later this year.

—Incyte reported that its topical drug ruxolitinib met the main goal of a late-stage study in atopic dermatitis.

—Merck (NYSE: MRK) won FDA approval for fidaxomicin (Dificid), an antibiotic developed to treat Clostridoides difficile-associated diarrhea.

—Sanofi (NYSE: SNY) reported positive Phase 2/3 data for olipudase alfa, its experimental treatment for acid sphingomyelinase deficiency, a metabolic disorder that has no FDA-approved treatment. The company says the data will support regulatory submissions expected to start next year.

STARTUP LAUNCHES

Flagship Pioneering spun out a biotech called Ohana Biosciences that is developing technology based on sperm biology to improve the efficiency of assisted reproductive technologies—plus a nonhormonal method of birth control for men.

—Denver-based digital health startup BioIntelliSense emerged from stealth with a wearable sensor meant to monitor patients’ vital signs remotely and a strategic partnership with UCHealth, a health system in Colorado that plans to use the BioSticker devices to track the health of discharged patients who have chronic health issues.

—Two venture firms invested $14 million in a new company commercializing an imaging technology developed in a Harvard University lab that allows researchers to peer inside individual cells.

IN MEMORIUM

—Joseph Darling, the president and CEO of Anika Therapeutics (NASDAQ: ANIK), passed away unexpectedly. No cause of death was given. An interim “Office of the President,” comprised of other members of the executive team, will manage daily operations of the Bedford, MA, company while it searches for Darling’s successor.

PEOPLE ON THE MOVE

Melanie Ivarsson joined Moderna (NASDAQ: RNA) as chief development officer… John Quisel, a former executive at Acceleron Pharma (NASDAQ: XLRN), was named CEO of Disc Medicine… Passage Bio appointed Bruce Goldsmith as CEO…. Paul Blanchfield joined Lantheus Holdings as chief commercial officer… Decibel Therapeutics CEO Steven Holtzman retired, and was succeeded by acting CEO Laurence Reid… and Biofourmis named Jaydev Thakkar its chief operating officer and Milan Shah its chief technology officer.

Sarah de Crescenzo contributed to this report.

Photo by Flickr user Chris Potter via a Creative Commons license