Affini-T plans to go public in 2024

The IPO window is starting to crack open and Affini-T Therapeutics plans to push through in 2024.

The financial plans relayed by CEO Jak Knowles in an interview with Fierce Biotech occur as the biotech works through an ambitious schedule that’s set to include three clinical trial applications in the next 18 months. Knowles wouldn’t put a hard timeline on when the company could consider going public but teased as early as the fourth quarter of this year or the first half of 2024. 

“I think the window is going to be open end of this year, beginning of next year,” he said. The jump to the public markets would follow a $175 million financing when the biotech unveiled in 2022. 

On the surface, Affini-T seems like a biotech company that the markets would be hesitant of. While the plan is to have three clinical-stage assets a year from now, the biotech will only have just started phase 1 trials for one to two assets by the time of a potential IPO—if all goes well. Knowles, who has both venture capital and biotech experience thanks to his time at Leaps by Bayer and Metagenomi, respectively, is undeterred, basing his confidence on the company’s potential to have multiple first-in-class engineered T-cells. 

Those cell therapies are targeting KRAS G12V and KRAS G12D, with the first two assets in the clinic targeting G12V. One uses a lentiviral approach while the other uses gene editing. The third asset, slated for a clinical trial application sometime around the middle of 2024, will target G12D. 

“In my experience, being first really matters, especially in oncology, where the people who win are usually the first or second to market and then there's a bunch of follow-on, me-too products,” Knowles said. He compared the market potential of Affini-T to a company like Legend Biotech, a cell therapy biotech with an almost $13 billion market cap that’s partnered with Janssen on Carvykti. 

Knowles anticipates dosing patients by the end of the year with response data in the first cohort of the first trial by the middle of next year. Should all go according to plan—which is never a certainty in biotech—Affini-T could go public around then and accelerate financial momentum with durability data in the latter half of 2024. 

“You want to be out and be public for that durability readout, that's where you get a lot of value,” he said. “That’s core to our strategy.” 

Once the clinical data comes in, Affini-T may then be open to licensing out commercial rights to some of the assets. But Knowles acknowledges that partnerships are inherently dilutive, and wants to make sure his biotech gets the most bang for its buck—especially if the data is positive. In the meantime, he’s resisted inking a number of preclinical discovery partnerships, saying that he’s seen them be a “distraction” for other companies. 

“I want to focus on making drugs,” he said.