In a rush? A year after exiting stealth mode, Black Diamond guns for IPO

Last year, we asked: Are too many early-stage biotechs going for IPOs, and when will the bubble burst?

Cancer upstart Black Diamond Therapeutics has paid no mind to this, and just over a year after its series A raise is going for a $100 million IPO.

It’s been a whirlwind 12 months, with two quick-fire raises coupled with a series of big-name execs coming to the biotech, which nabbed Yumanity Therapeutics, Merck KGaA and SR One veterans back in September to help head up its research work.

This trio of new research leads are Christopher Roberts, Ph.D., chief scientific officer; Matt Lucas, Ph.D., vice president of chemistry; and Tai-An Lin, Ph.D., VP and head of biology.

Roberts oversees all of Black Diamond’s research and early development. Lucas will run its chemistry work in Cambridge, Massachusetts, while Lin is heading up its labs in New York.

The new CSO comes to the biotech from SR One, the corporate venture capital arm of GlaxoSmithKline, where he was an entrepreneur in residence. Lucas, meanwhile, was the senior director of chemistry at Parkinson’s disease biotech Yumanity.

Lin has been director of the immuno-oncology translational innovation platform and experimental medicine at Merck KGaA/EMD Serono, with stints before this on a series of Big Pharma drug discovery teams at Bristol-Myers Squibb, Roche and Janssen.

The Versant Ventures biotech raised $85 million in a series B at the start of the year, coming just weeks after Black Diamond exited stealth mode. It broke cover with a $20 million in series A and a platform designed to identify and target allosteric mutant oncogenes.

Together, these cash grabs teed up the allosteric oncogenic mutation specialist up to move two or three candidates into the clinic in the coming years: It now wants an extra $100 million from the public markets to help in this mission.

The biotech’s founders David Epstein and Elizabeth Buck designed the platform to unlock the therapeutic potential of oncogenes activated by allosteric mutations, which, unlike kinase domain mutations, are yet to make a mark on cancer care.

If the platform works as Black Diamond hopes, it will generate single molecules capable of treating baskets of mutations previously seen as unactionable from a therapeutic perspective.

The company is now focused on getting its lead program, BDTX-189, into the clinic to test this platform. According to its Securities and Exchange Commission filing, the biotech submitted its IND for BDTX-189 in November 2019 and got the FDA green light a month later.  

Black Diamond is plotting a combined phase 1/2 clinical trial in the first half of 2020. “The Phase 1 portion of the trial will evaluate escalating doses of BDTX-189 and is designed to determine the recommended Phase 2 dose and to assess preliminary indications of anti-tumor activity,” it said in the filing.

“The Phase 2 portion will determine the objective response rate, or ORR, and duration of response in patients with solid tumors that have an allosteric HER2 mutation or EGFR or HER2 exon 20 insertion mutation determined using next-generation sequencing, or NGS. Depending on results, we plan to pursue an accelerated approval of BDTX-189 for a tumor-agnostic indication in patients with mutations of the ErbB family.”

It’s also working on a preclinical candidate it hopes can combat glioblastoma, a particularly aggressive form of brain cancer with few treatments and poor outcomes.

For this candidate, Black Diamond said: “Our lead molecules are designed to be potent, allosteric EGFR selective and to be brain penetrant. We have observed measurable brain exposure in animal models. We are completing preclinical characterization of our glioblastoma candidate leads and plan to select a development candidate in 2020.”

The Cambridge, Massachusetts-based company plans to list on the Nasdaq under the symbol "BDTX."