Biotech IPO bonanza: Legend's $350M offering as Repare, Forma get in on the action

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Legend Biotech is living up to its name as it sets terms for a massive $350 million IPO, while early-stage cancer biotech Repare Therapeutics and blood-disease-focused Forma Therapeutics also look to go public.

First up is Chinese CAR-T player Legend Biotech, which is being spun out of Genscript Biotech and has set terms for a $350 million IPO, gunning for a market value of around $2.6 billion.

A few weeks back it announced a plan for a $100 million IPO, but it has dived in deeper: Legend will need the funds to advance a pipeline spearheaded by Johnson & Johnson-partnered anti-BCMA therapy JNJ-4528, which is in early- to midstage trials.

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As it stands, Genscript owns the lion’s share of Legend. However, with JNJ-4528 closing in on a filing for approval and Legend trialing multiple other CAR-T therapies that are driving up Genscript’s costs, the parent company has decided now is the time to spin its cell therapy unit out and list its stock in the U.S.

And it’s not the only one looking to strike while the iron is hot: Two other biotechs, much earlier in the drug development pathway, are also looking to get in on an IPO market that has continued to stay wide open for biotechs: preclinical biotech Repare and phase 1 rare disease player Forma.

Repare has already had a good week after Bristol Myers Squibb tapped the biotech to find new synthetic lethality targets in a deal that could be worth billions.

Under the pact, the duo will use Repare’s screening technology to pinpoint multiple targets for new cancer drugs. The Big Pharma is handing over $65 million upfront, including $15 million in equity, but is promising up to $3 billion in license fees as well as assorted milestone payments.

Repare’s CRISPR-based platform identifies synthetic lethal gene pairs, which cause cell death when both genes are inactivated. In cancer cells, one of these genes is inactivated by a mutation; the other will be switched off by a drug.

The biotech snagged $82 million last fall to move its most advanced program into the clinic in 2020, with another following close behind. Dubbed RP-3500, the lead program inhibits ATR, which protects cells from replication-related stresses. It hasn’t disclosed much about the second program, code-named “Manchester,” which targets a synthetic lethal pair involving the CCNE1 gene.

Now, it wants a $100 million IPO to help push on with its work; it plans to list on the Nasdaq under the "RPTX" ticker.

Last but not least is Forma, a blood disease biotech looking for an impressive $150 million for its early clinical work centered on FT-4202, a once-a day oral treatment for sickle cell disease now in phase 1 testing.

The biotech nabbed a $100 million raise late last year in a series D, leading it inevitably into an IPO push.

FT-4202 is aiming to become a therapy that changes the course of sickle cell disease rather than addressing symptoms such as infection, inflammation and anemia. FT-4202 activates the enzyme pyruvate kinase-R, which combats the sickling of red blood cells and helps hemoglobin bind to and release oxygen more efficiently.

Forma presented data from healthy volunteers at last year’s meeting of the American Society of Hematology and has been enrolling patients with sickle cell into the phase 1/2 study. Though sickle cell is its first indication, Forma may test it in other diseases.

Next in line is olutasidenib, an IDH1 inhibitor that’s in pivotal studies for relapsed or refractory acute myeloid leukemia. Lee expects that study to read out in mid-2020 and says it could lead to an NDA filing for the drug. Forma is also testing it in brain cancer and other solid tumors.

It plans to list on the Nasdaq under the symbol "FMTX."

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