Bullish Intellia Therapeutics raises $108M in top-range IPO

Novartis-backed preclinical upstart Intellia is throwing caution to the wind today after going for the top range of its IPO by selling 6 million shares at $18 a share, raising $108 million.

The Cambridge, MA-based CRISPR/Cas9 pioneer has grabbed attention since being founded in 2014 and was quickly backed by Atlas and Novartis ($NVS). The Swiss major has in fact already agreed to pay $50 million in an upfront and research fees over 5 years along with up to $230 million in milestones.

Regeneron ($REGN), meanwhile, paid $75 million upfront to partner with Intellia last month. Twitter has also been abuzz since the IPO was announced last month, with potential investors asking when the company was set to go public.

So what’s the excitement all about? Well, despite being preclinical, its Big Pharma partners believe its CRISPR tech--which centers on a simple method for reengineering DNA--may well have profound consequences in treating disease and even change the way certain conditions are treated.

Not all analysts share the bull thesis, however, with some warning that this type of gene editing biotech speculation is a bubble waiting to pop. But for now, these companies appear to be beating back against strong IPO headwinds that for the past 6 months have seen a slew of biotechs discount their offerings or pull their IPOs completely.

One of the few to make it, and make it well, has been Cambridge, MA-based gene editing company Editas ($EDIT)--which raised $94.4 million in its IPO back in February. No one is invincible however, and the company priced the shares at $16 apiece--at the bottom of its anticipated range of $16 to $18.

It also joins Cellectis ($CLLS) of Paris and Sangamo Biosciences ($SMGO) of Richmond, CA, as publicly traded biotechs using gene editing to develop their main products. A fifth company, Crispr Therapeutics, is still private, although it has seen around $100 million in venture investment.

Intellia has gone for the top range, seemingly confident in its early-stage work and buoyed by the interest shown from Novartis and Regeneron. The biotech will in fact be handing over a block of stock to Regeneron and Novartis for $55 million, with insiders also set to take a large chunk of shares--with all of this bumping Intellia’s gross haul to around $160 million.

The money raised will be used to push on with R&D programs for its candidates through to the submission of at least one IND, it said in its SEC-1 filing. The biotech also said it will splash out on the “acquisition of businesses or technologies” for its research programs.

This includes progressing its in vivo and ex vivo pipeline product candidates, as well as further developing its delivery technologies and CRISPR/Cas9 gene editing platform.

One of its in vivo candidates, which targets transthyretin amyloidosis (ATTR)--a life-threatening disease caused by misfolded transthyretin proteins that accumulate as amyloid fibrils in multiple organs--is being co-developed with Regeneron. This is one potential candidate that could be advanced to IND-enabling trials in the next 12 to 24 months, according to the company.

It’s not the only biotech working on this particular disease however, with Alnylam Pharmaceuticals ($ALNY) currently running late-stage trials for its RNAi therapeutic patisiran, in patients with hereditary ATTR amyloidosis with polyneuropathy.

In the ex vivo field, Intellia is working with Novartis on a knockout repair insertion technology using hematopoietic stem cells, with a first IND expected to be submitted in 2018. Editas meanwhile has already said it aims to have its first program for a rare form of blindness called Leber congenital amaurosis in clinical trials by next year.

Intellia’s largest shareholder is Caribou Therapeutics (21.5%), a Californian genome engineering company spun off from Jennifer Doudna’s CRISPR lab at Berkeley. It was in fact Caribou which outlicensed the CRISPR tech to Intellia. Novartis owns 20.3% while Atlas has a 17% stake.

Intellia plans to list on the Nasdaq under the ticker $NTLA.

- check out the Renaissance Capital brief
- read its SEC-1 filing