Apellis swings for an $86M IPO amid a dicey climate for biotech

Apellis Pharmaceuticals, at work on treatments for rare diseases, is lining up to go public in an $86 million IPO as biotech's long-running hot streak looks all the more tenuous.

The company, headquartered in Kentucky, is planning to list its shares on the Nasdaq under the symbol "APLS." Apellis is still early in the IPO process and is yet to disclose how many shares it plans to offer or at what expected price range. The company's $86 million goal is also a placeholder likely to change in the coming weeks.

With the cash, Apellis plans to push its lead candidate, APL-2, into 5 Phase II studies in the second half of next year. The drug, injected either under the skin or into the eye, has potential in the rare diseases paroxysmal nocturnal hemoglobinuria, geographic atrophy, refractory myasthenia gravis, neuromyelitis optica and chronic kidney rejection, plus the more common age-related macular degeneration, the company said. Apellis also has an inhaled treatment, APL-1, slated to enter Phase Ib in COPD and Phase II in idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis next year.

Regardless of its pipeline, Apellis has chosen what looks like an inopportune time to make its way to Wall Street. The once-frothy market for biotech companies has cooled over the past few months, as the industry's indices and exchange-traded funds have slumped to annual lows.

And investors' sudden skittishness has made a mark on the IPO scene. Recent debutantes CytomX Therapeutics ($CTMX), Aclaris Therapeutics ($ACRS), Nabriva Therapeutics ($NBRV), Edge Therapeutics ($EDGE) and Mirna Therapeutics ($MIRN) all priced below their expected ranges, a quick reversal of fortune from the slew of high-dollar debuts that marked the second quarter.

Apellis is currently working off of a $33 million Series C financing, closed in December. Morningside Ventures is the company's biggest shareholder, with a 32.6% stake, followed by Potentia Pharmaceuticals and Korean investor AJU.

- read the filing