Precision BioSciences has joined the club of publicly traded gene editing biotech companies, raising $126 million in its stock market debut.
On Wednesday evening, Durham, NC-based Precision Bio sold 7.9 million shares for $16 apiece, which was right in the middle of its targeted price range. Those shares are expected to begin trading on the Nasdaq exchange Thursday under the stock symbol “DTIL,” which the company says stands for “dedicated to improving life.”
Much of the attention in gene editing has focused on CRISPR technology. CRISPR uses an enzyme to make cuts in the genome, which in turn allows the DNA to be edited. Editas Medicine (NASDAQ: EDIT), Intellia Therapeutics (NASDAQ: NTLA), and CRISPR Therapeutics (NASDAQ: CRSP) are each therapies based on this particular gene-editing technology.
Precision Bio’s proprietary technology is called ARCUS. The company says in its IPO prospectus that ARCUS reprograms a gene-editing enzyme called I-Crel, which is found in algae. Precision Bio contends that its technology has advantages compared to CRISPR and TALEN, another gene-editing technology. Precision Bio CEO Matt Kane has described ARCUS as being both flexible and more precise, which avoids “off-target” effects on other genes that can happen with other technologies.
Cancer is the lead target for Precision Bio’s research. The company has used its technology to engineer cancer cell therapies made from the immune cells of healthy human donors. These allogeneic cell therapies are “off-the-shelf” treatments, which means can be produced more quickly and less expensively than cell therapies made from a patient’s own cells. Precision Bio’s most advanced therapeutic candidate, PBCAR0191, is an allogeneic cell therapy developed to target the cancer protein CD19. According to the company’s IPO prospectus, a Phase 1/2a clinical trial is expected to start in April testing the therapy in patients with acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL) and non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. The study is part of a partnership with French pharmaceutical company Servier.
In gene therapy, Precision Bio is partnered with Gilead Sciences (NASDAQ: GILD). That alliance, focused on developing a gene therapy to treat chronic hepatitis B infection, is still in preclinical development.
Precision Bio’s also conducts agricultural research, which is handled by a subsidiary called Elo Life Systems. Food and plant science companies that have used Precision Bio’s technology in their research include Cargill, BASF, Bayer CropScience, and DuPont Pioneer.
Precision Bio says between $7 million and $9 million of the IPO proceeds will be used to test its allogeneic cancer cell therapy. Up to $52 million is earmarked for the development of other allogeneic cancer cell therapies. Approximately $20 million is planned for gene therapy research. The company also plans to spend between $12 million and $14 million to finish a manufacturing facility in Durham. According to the prospectus, that site is expected to open in the second half of this year.