Having lost Merck partnership, Artiva looks to IPO to fund NK cell therapy

Artiva Biotherapeutics has become the latest biotech to set out IPO ambitions for the summer, as the allogeneic natural killer (NK) cell therapy company pushes its lead program through automimmune clinical trials.

San Diego-based Artiva unveiled the plans in a Securities and Exchange Commission filing June 28, although the company has not yet provided details of how many shares it is planning to offer or at what price.

However much the biotech brings in from the IPO, the company said the top priority for spending the proceeds will be on continuing the clinical development of its lead program AlloNK.

The non-genetically modified, cryopreserved NK cell therapy is currently in a phase 1/1b trial in combination with either Roche’s monoclonal antibodies Rituxan or Gazyva in patients with class III or IV lupus nephritis (LN) as well as a separate basket study in multiple autoimmune indications. A readout from at least one of these indications is expected in the first half of 2025.

When Artiva reported in April that the first patient had been dosed in the LN study, it claimed this was the first time that an allogeneic, off-the-shelf NK cell therapy had been administered in a U.S. clinical trial for treatment of an autoimmune disease.

Artiva also alluded in Friday’s filing to an ongoing phase 1/2 trial of AlloNK for B-cell non-Hodgkin lymphoma, which the biotech said had demonstrated that the treatment “was able to drive deep B-cell depletion in the periphery and observed complete responses in heavily pre-treated patients naïve to auto-CAR-T.”

These preliminary oncology results “provide a readthrough to autoimmune disease” where a similar mode of action should also be effective, the company added.

Any remaining cash from the IPO will be used for “additional discovery activities and preclinical development and clinical development across our pipeline programs, as well as headcount costs, manufacturing and supply activities, working capital and other general corporate purposes,” the company explained in the filing.

Artiva had previously caught the attention of Merck & Co., which handed over $30 million upfront for the global licenses for two off-the-shelf solid tumor cell therapies. However, the Big Pharma walked away from the pact in October 2023, according to Friday’s filing.

The biotech does maintain another partnership in the form of Affimed. The two companies agreed in November 2022 to evaluate combining Affimed’s innate cell engager AFM13 with one of Alumis’ NK cell products known as AB-101.

Artiva announced its IPO plans on the same day Alumis joined the Nasdaq via a downsized offering. Despite dropping its share price from $17 to $16, the TYK2 inhibitor-focused biotech saw its stock end its first day of trading down 17% at $13.30 —following a trend seen among newly listed biotechs this year.