EuroBiotech Report—CAR-T death forces Cellectis hold, NuCana, Nightstar lead IPO flurry and Verona COPD data

Cellectis, NuCana, Nightstar, Destiny and Verona were in the news this week.

Welcome to the latest edition of our weekly EuroBiotech Report. This week’s news brings a rare flurry of IPO activity—and a warning of the kicking public markets will give these companies if they suffer setbacks. First, to the kicking. Cellectis saw its share price sink after the first patient enrolled in a phase 1 trial of its off-the-shelf CAR-T died, triggering a clinical hold. NuCana is one of three soon-to-be-public biotechs hoping it fares better in the clinic. The Scottish biotech is seeking a $115 million IPO to trial its retooled chemotherapies. NuCana looks set to be joined on Nasdaq by gene therapy player Nightstar Therapeutics, which is aiming to raise $86 million. Our third listing is that rarest of events: a London biotech IPO. Destiny Pharma pulled off the biggest biotech listing in London since 2015, which says more about the lull in activity in the city than the size of the IPO. Verona Pharma reported phase 2a data showing that adding RPL554 to Boehringer Ingelheim’s Spiriva improves lung function in COPD patients. And more. Nick Taylor  

1. FDA hits Cellectis’ off-the-shelf CAR-T program with clinical hold

The FDA has placed a clinical hold on two phase 1 trials of Cellectis’ UCART123 after learning of the death of one patient. Development of the off-the-shelf CAR-T therapy is now in limbo while Cellectis works with the FDA to redesign the protocol to mitigate the risks identified in the first weeks of the trials.


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2. NuCana plans $115M IPO to test retooled chemotherapies

NuCana has filed to raise $115 million in a Nasdaq IPO. The anticipated haul will fund late-phase trials of NuCana’s reformulated cancer candidates, including a version of Eli Lilly’s Gemzar it hopes will supplant the veteran chemotherapy in some indications.

3. Nightstar files for $86M IPO to fund gene therapy trials

Nightstar Therapeutics has filed to raise up to $86 million in a Nasdaq IPO. The money will equip Nightstar to complete a phase 3 trial of its choroideremia gene therapy and advance two other eye disease candidates through early-stage clinical studies.

4. Destiny pulls off IPO to fund infection-prevention trial

Destiny Pharma has listed on London’s AIM exchange. The IPO gives Destiny £15.3 million ($19.8 million) to assess lead candidate XF-73 in the prevention of postsurgical staphylococcal infections in a phase 2b trial.

5. Verona COPD drug beats Boehringer blockbuster in phase 2

Verona Pharma has released results showing that adding its RPL554 to Boehringer Ingelheim’s Spiriva improves lung function in chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) patients. Data from the small phase 2a trial suggest Verona’s PDE3/PDE4 inhibitor may complement long-acting antimuscarinic (LAMA) bronchodilators such as Spiriva.

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