Cellectis upscales IPO toward $200M as CAR-T fever continues

Cellectis has tossed aside its earlier IPO targets as strong demand and a surge in its European stock price have encouraged it to pitch for a bumper listing. The French CAR-T player is now aiming to raise $197 million before the overallotment, 70% more than it was targeting when it first filed its papers last month.

Hype around Cellectis has built over the month since it first signaled its intent to list in the U.S., during which time its stock price on the Paris exchange has surged more than 66%. The rapid rise means Cellectis will now start trading in the U.S. at $41.41 per share, compared to an anticipated $36.83 one week ago. In the days before the IPO was announced Cellectis was trading around $26 a share. And back in the dark days of December 2013 before the CAR-T excitement started, traders could pick up Cellectis for $2 and change.

The recent advancement of Cellectis' stock in Paris has happened in parallel to a scrap for a piece of the IPO in the U.S., prompting the company to increase the number of shares it will make available. Cellectis now plans to offer 4.75 million shares, up from 3.5 million last week. The company also bumped up the number of shares in the overallotment by 36%, putting it in line to receive $29.5 million if investors snap up all of the stock. A total IPO haul of $226.5 million is possible, which would put Cellectis squarely between its CAR-T rivals Juno Therapeutics ($JUNO) and Kite Pharma ($KITE).

Juno and Kite raised $304.8 million and $146.6 million, respectively, in their IPOs last year. Kite also returned to investors for a secondary offering and the stock prices of both firms has soared since they first went public. With the hype around CAR-T spreading beyond biotech and toward the mainstream, there is no shortage of people who want to place another bet on the sector. Cellectis' fortunes have been completely transformed by the excitement. After 15 years of plugging away at a range of projects while attracting little attention, it now finds itself at the forefront of a phenomenon.

The next challenge is to show its off-the-shelf allogeneic therapies--which are created by equipping T cells with cancer cell-targeting capabilities--are safe and effective. The long slog to market starts with Phase I and II trials for a string of candidates, for which Cellectis is setting aside $64 million of its IPO haul.

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