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Agbio Startup Cibus Files for an IPO to Support Gene-Editing R&D

Xconomy San Diego — 

Cibus, which has developed a proprietary gene-editing technology that tweaks crops’ DNA to improve yield, is planning to make its public market debut.

The San Diego-based biotech set a preliminary $100 million target for its IPO in documents filed with securities regulators Friday. That figure will change as the company determines how many shares it will sell and at what price. Cibus has applied for a listing on the Nasdaq exchange under the stock symbol “CBUS.”

Cibus has been around since 2001, when a group of researchers from ValiGen, a biotech, got together to develop a way to quickly edit crops. That group went on to form Cibus. The company calls its gene-editing platform the Rapid Trait Development System.

Commercially grown genetically engineered crops have been being planted for more than 20 years. But with a sizable minority of consumers in the U.S. concerned with the impacts of genetically modified organisms (GMOs) on health and the environment, Cibus sees an opportunity to sell to farmers that want to plant crops that haven’t been altered to incorporate foreign genes.

Cibus describes the editing it does as inducing mutations in genetic information to speed up changes that could have otherwise occurred naturally. While it changes the DNA of the seeds it grows, Cibus doesn’t insert genes from other species, so the products aren’t considered GMOs. Genetically modified crops have been widely accepted by farmers in the U.S., but some countries have banned cultivation of such plants.

In 2016, Cibus launched its first product, SU Canola (recently renamed Falco), which it engineered to resist sulfonylurea herbicides (SUs). In its prospectus, Cibus said the seed product has since garnered 4 percent of the U.S. canola market share, measured by acres planted. It is the company’s only commercialized product so far. Cibus has also since launched the canola product in Canada.

In April, Cibus appointed Jim Hinrichs to serve as its chief financial officer.

Previously Hinrichs was executive vice president and CFO of Alere, the Waltham, MA-based diagnostics company. He was at Alere from April 2015 until its sale to Abbott Park, IL-based global healthcare company Abbott Labs (NYSE: ABT) for $5.3 billion in October 2017.

Prior to Alere, Hinrichs served as corporate controller and chief accounting officer of San Diego-based global medical device company CareFusion from August 2013 until its sale in March 2015 to Becton Dickinson (NYSE: BDX) for about $12 billion.

Cibus said it plans to use the IPO proceeds to fund R&D; to hire sales and marketing personnel and pay for product promotions and advertising; as working capital for seed production; and to upgrade its IT systems.

In June, Cibus raised a $70 million Series C financing round to fund SU Canola’s large-scale commercialization. The company’s pipeline includes trait development for flax, potato, cassava, peanut, wheat, corn, and soybeans.

Since inception, Cibus has raised roughly $200 million from backers including Fidelity Management & Research, Alexandria Venture Investments, and Cormorant Asset Management. It employs about 100 people across offices in San Diego, where it conducts R&D, and in Minnesota, Canada, and the Netherlands.

The company reported a net loss of about $30 million on revenue of about $2.6 million in the first nine months of 2018. In the same period the year prior, the company reported a net loss of $31.5 million on revenue of about $1.8 million.