Bristol-Myers' armed antibody partner Ambrx shoots for an $86M IPO

After earning more than $200 million in nondilutive funding for its work on armed antibodies, La Jolla, CA-based Ambrx thinks this is the right time to catch the biotech IPO wave as it looks to raise another $86 million from investors.

Over the years Ambrx, a 2005 Fierce 15 company spun out of Scripps, has struck some high-profile industry partnerships with Bristol-Myers Squibb ($BMY), Astellas, Merck ($MRK) and Eli Lilly ($LLY). The biotech has also moved an ADC of its own to the threshold of clinical studies while a long-acting protein, a human growth hormone, finished a Phase IIb trial.

A year ago Ambrx earned a $15 million upfront from Bristol-Myers, which was doubling down on a pair of development pacts it inked with the ADC developer back in 2011. At about the same time Astellas signed a $300 million development deal. And just a few days ago Ambrx and China's Zhejiang Hisun Pharmaceutical Company announced a collaboration to develop bispecifics based on Ambrx's cancer technology.

Roche's ($RHHBY) ADC Kadcyla blazed a path to the market, helping make these "smart bomb" programs quite popular in biopharma. And San Diego-based Ambrx has emerged as one of the top players in the field of new ADC work, offering partners a shot at a new-and-improved ADC with what it touts as enhanced site specificity.

Ambrx is getting into the IPO arena after a string of misfires forced biotechs to slash their price ranges. It hopes to avoid the same fate with a better story for investors. But after a huge IPO boom that began a year ago, Ambrx may be testing Wall Street's appetite after a lengthy feast.

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