Ambit Biosciences Seeks $86M IPO as Market Warms Up

Xconomy San Diego — 

Ambit Biosciences, the San Diego-based biotech company in its third incarnation, is now gearing up to take the IPO leap.

Ambit is hoping to raise as much as $86.3 million in an initial public offering underwritten by JP Morgan, Credit Suisse, Leerink Swann, and Wedbush PacGrow Life Sciences, according to an investor prospectus filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission. As Dow Jones points out, Ambit is attempting to strike while the iron is at least mildly warm, since there were 18 offerings in October, the most in three years.

The company, born in the genomics heyday of 2000, originally sought to build a comprehensive database on proteins and sell the information to pharma companies, and when that didn’t work, it tried to build a business screening drug candidates for pharma companies. Now the company is hoping to take advantage of its knowledge of kinase drug targets to become a drug developer in its own right, with a lead product candidate for acute myeloid leukemia, which I described here in a September 2009 feature story. Four months later, Ambit made news when it struck a partnership with Japan-based Astellas Pharma to co-develop that drug quizartinib (formerly AC220), and others against cancer and inflammatory diseases.

Ambit has run up a $158 million accumulated deficit in its history, and had about $31.3 million in cash left on the books at the end of June, according to its investor prospectus. Ambit’s IPO bid will be led by a new boss, Alan Lewis. Lewis, the former CEO of the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation, stepped in to replace Scott Salka as Ambit’s CEO in July.

Some well-known investors stand to cash out sizable holdings if Ambit can pull off this transaction. Ambit’s largest investors heading into the offering are the Perseus-Soros Biopharmaceutical Fund (19.2 percent); Apposite Healthcare Fund (13.3 percent); San Diego-based Forward Ventures (11.9 percent); GrowthWorks Canadian Fund (10.9 percent); MedImmune Ventures (9.4 percent); and OrbiMed Advisors (8 percent).