Biotech IPOs keep coming as Gilead-backed Hookipa Pharma guns for $86M

Appetite for biotech IPOs still appears high as Hookipa Pharma filed for a meaty public offering. The company aims to use the cash boost toward its midstage cancer and infectious disease work.

Hookipa is developing a pipeline derived from two arenavirus-based vector platforms: Vaxwave and TheraT.

VaxWave is based on lymphocytic choriomeningitis virus. The twist is Hookipa has replaced the gene encoding for a protein that enables the virus to enter cells with one for the target antigen. TheraT, meanwhile, is an attenuated arenavirus capable of replicating, a feature that raises safety concerns but also opens the door to superior efficacy. 

Hookipa thinks the resulting therapies will infect dendritic cells and stimulate immune responses without running the risk they will replicate and cause side effects. 

Its lead cancer candidates, HB-201 and HB-202, are in the works for cancers coming out of the human papillomavirus (HPV) and, according to its SEC filing, plans “to file an investigational new drug application with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration for HB-201 and HB-202 in the first half and second half of 2019, respectively.” These drugs are out of its TheraT platform.

Using its VaxWave tech its leading infectious disease candidate is HB-101, a drug designed to halt cytomegalovirus infections (CMV), a common infection but one that can prove deadly to those with compromised immune systems.

In the fourth quarter it kickstarted a midstage test of the therapy in cytomegalovirus-negative patients awaiting kidney transplantation from living cytomegalovirus-positive donors. “We expect safety and immunogenicity data from the first cohorts enrolled in this trial in the first half of 2020, and preliminary efficacy data to follow in the second half of 2020,” the biotech said in its SEC-1.

RELATED: Ex-uniQure chief Aldag takes helm at vaccine upstart Hookipa

Gilead, Boehringer and Takeda have all bought into the biotech’s platforms, backing its recent funding rounds, which included a $60 million (€50 million) series C at the end of December 2017.

Last year, Gilead also licensed a series of immunization technologies from Hookipa Biotech for use against hepatitis B and HIV. The big biotech paid $10 million (€8.5 million) upfront and committing to milestones that could exceed $400 million to snag exclusive rights to two technologies in the indications.

In return, Gilead is gaining access to arenavirus vector-based immunization technologies that could further its efforts in two key diseases.

It plans to list on the Nasdaq under the symbol HOOK.