Syndax readies its 2nd IPO attempt during a market tempest

Looking to cash in on its eventful past year, Syndax is upping its bet on a turbulent market with an IPO that will seek to garner about $66 million.

The last time Syndax made a try at an IPO, it set out for a $60 million windfall. But this time, it's looking to trade on the rep of its new, high-profile CEO--AstraZeneca ($AZN) vet Briggs Morrison--and a string of partnerships with a who's who in immuno-oncology by selling 4.4 million shares at $14 to $16 per share. At most, it could gain up to $70 million, though the odds against a top-of-the-range response are intimidating.

Whether it succeeds will be closely watched by everyone in the industry, which has seen a slate of four biotechs debut in recent weeks only to quickly slip back on their opening price. Those ranks include the preclinical biotech Editas ($EDIT, up 12% this morning), which has built a reputation as one of the leaders in the hot new field of gene editing. And analysts have been quick to note that all the new arrivals only completed the jump into the public market with considerable help from crossover backers.

Waltham, MA-based Syndax is betting on a string of upbeat moves, starting with the arrival of Morrison 8 months ago. Morrison was one of the top R&D execs at AstraZeneca when he left to take the reins at Syndax.

Syndax CEO Briggs Morrison

Just weeks ago Syndax struck a deal to partner its lead drug entinostat--designed to amp up an immune system assault on cancer cells--with avelumab, the PD-L1 drug from Pfizer ($PFE) and Merck KGaA. Syndax had already partnered with Roche's ($RHHBY) checkpoint inhibitor atezolizumab as well as Merck's ($MRK) Keytruda.

Entinostat is currently in Phase III for HR-positive breast cancer and won the FDA's breakthrough therapy designation in 2013, which could provide an inside track with regulators.

A year ago, that kind of story would have been a shoo-in on Nasdaq. But the past three months have been brutal on biotech stocks, as an election year focus on drug prices and global economic uncertainty have routed investors from the high-stakes, high-risk drug development sector. Still, the window is open--for now.

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