Ambit bounces back from dropped IPO with $30M round

A day after word that Ambit Biosciences had dropped plans for an $86 million IPO, venture investors have swooped in and replenished the cancer drug developer's coffers with a $30 million equity financing, the company says.

Ambit plans to use the capital infusion, which is a Series D-2 round, to fund mid-stage development of its lead drug, AC220, a tyrosine kinase inhibitor for acute myeloid leukemia, according to the company. Apposite Capital led the round, which also drew investments from previous backers Perseus-Soros Biopharmaceutical Fund, OrbiMed Advisors, Forward Ventures, Roche Venture Fund, MedImmune Ventures, GIMV, GrowthWorks, Genechem, Radius Ventures, NovaQuest and Horizon Technology Finance. Ambit, a 2006 Fierce 15 firm, had previously raised $105 million over the years.

It's still a cold market for biotech IPOs--even for promising biotechs like San Diego-based Ambit, which has struck multiple partnership deals with larger drug developers like Astellas Pharma and Cephalon. Yet the firm's venture investors are betting on its ability to grow in value despite the lack of exit options in the public markets. Nowadays, biotech investors appear to have a higher likelihood of gaining returns through mergers and acquisitions involving their portfolio investments. That could be the fate of Ambit if its experimental drugs can make good progress in clinical trials.

The firm's lead, mid-stage drug, which it's developing in partnership with Astellas, targets mutations in FLT3 genes found in about 25 to 30 percent of patients with acute myeloid leukemia, a relatively common blood cancer. Patients with the mutation have a higher risk of relapsing after standard chemotherapy and stem cell transplant treatments, according to Ambit. Its latest financing will also be used to fuel development of its Phase I assets.

"We are very pleased that our existing investors have reaffirmed their confidence in the Company, providing us with sufficient funding to pursue our strategy and enabling us to withdraw our plans for an initial public offering," Alan Lewis, Ambit's president and CEO, said in a statement.

- here's the Ambit release