The top 10 biotech IPOs of 2013

Last year when we did the list of the top 10 biotech IPOs of 2012, we were lucky to have 10. Actually, there were 11, and that looked pretty good compared to the lean and hungry years of 2008 to 2011. Only one of the companies had to be excluded. This year, the top 10 list is far more … competitive.

After years watching the barest glimmer of investor excitement in the high-risk biotech field, we're seeing some real eagerness to acquire shares. Companies are setting their ranges higher than ever, and some see stock prices shoot up on the first day.

That's not a universal condition, of course. Some of this year's class of biotech IPOs had to discount their share price in order to make the jump into the market. Others haven't fared so well since their debuts. At least one, Prosensa ($RNA), a 2012 Fierce 15 company and winner of the FDA's "breakthrough therapy" designation, serves as a cautionary tale of where a wrong turn in the clinic can take you. You'll find a link at the bottom that will jump to the full list of 39 IPOs and 14 pitches of the year--biotech and diagnostics only, no devices or ag bio--and how their stock has performed as of the close late last week.

Periodically, we're treated to discussions about how this biotech IPO window is different--juxtaposed against angry polemics on the visible signs of a bubble in these numbers. Market trends, of course, always repeat themselves. On Wall Street, the past is inevitably prologue. And some of the biotech fashions of today can quickly become tomorrow's bell bottom jeans and hula hoops--along with a couple of Ford Pintos.

Here's my pick of the top 10; companies that reaped major rewards for backers and executives. I used a mix of the IPO price compared to the range plus the amount raised and the subsequent increase in share price to make my selection. It's also a somewhat subjective selection and listing, and readers are encouraged to comment on the list and companies you might have preferred.

For the record, you can call this a snapshot of where we are today when it comes to defining the 2013 version of what's trendy in biotech. Twenty years from now you can either look back and see the bottom floor or glimpse the elevator doors that opened directly to the shaft.

Nowhere does the old Latin admonition of "caveat emptor" apply better than in biotech. The rewards have been supersized this year. So have the risks. -- John Carroll, Editor-in-Chief. Follow me on Twitter and LinkedIn.

Fresh burst of biotech IPO pitches launches a busy Q4 season

After a slight lull in the biotech IPO arena over the summer, new S-1s came piling in at the beginning of the fourth quarter as another round of hopefuls plunged into the market, hoping to imitate some of the stellar debuts that have greeted many drug developers this year. See the full list (as of Oct. 21) here >>

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