GSK-backed Lyell Immunopharma, fresh off a near $500M cash injection, guns for a $150M IPO

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Preclinical biotech Lyell Immunopharma is looking to go public after a whirlwind year of big deals and big bucks raises as it looks to use cell therapy to beat solid tumors.

Lyell is certainly not short on cash, having banked $493 million in what was the second-largest private funding round for biotechs in 2020.

That raise came five months after the company inked a five-year deal with GlaxoSmithKline to boost the “fitness” of T cells in the latter’s cell therapy programs. The duo hopes to improve the efficacy of T-cell therapies in solid tumors and prevent relapses stemming from T-cell exhaustion.

T-cell exhaustion is just one piece of the puzzle for Lyell. Its goal is to surmount the hurdles that have limited the success of cell therapies in solid tumors.

In September, Lyell and Orca Bio also inked an R&D pact to combine their cell therapy technologies to “generate potentially synergistic therapeutic solutions for solid tumors.”

But now, it wants to follow the long line of early biotechs marching to Wall Street, gunning for a $150 million IPO (but don’t be surprised if this is bumped up in the coming weeks) as it looks to list on the Nasdaq under the "LYEL" ticker.

RELATED: GSK taps Lyell Immunopharma to take cell therapy to the next level

The South San Francisco, California-based biotech is still very early-stage, not seeing any INDs until next year, but the promise of its tech, which it believes can help beat solid cancers—not just blood cancers as its predecessor cell therapies have—is clearly a big draw.

According to its Securities and Exchange Commission filing, its furthest along asset is focused on CAR, targeting ROR-1, a receptor tyrosine kinase with altered expression in a range of cancers, the silencing of which is believed to halt a cancer’s ability to spread. Early trials will focus on non-small cell lung cancer and triple-negative breast cancers.

Other biotechs are also after this target, though using a different approach. Last year, Merck partnered with VelosBio to use its antibody-drug conjugate (ADC) against ROR-1; NBE-Therapeutics, partnered up with Boehringer Ingelheim, is also using an ADC therapy.

“We are applying our Gen-R and Epi-R technology platforms to our lead CAR program, LYL797, which is expected to be an intravenous (IV) administered CAR T cell product candidate targeting ROR1,” Lyell said in its filing.

“If successful, we anticipate expanding into other ROR1+ cancers with a lower incidence of ROR1 expression, including potentially hormone receptor positive (HR+) breast cancer, ovarian and other solid tumors. We expect to submit an IND for LYL797 in the first quarter of 2022.”

It also has more details of its deal with GSK, which currently owns 14% of the company. The U.K. Big Pharma is working on a New York esophageal squamous cell carcinoma 1 (NY-ESO-1) TCR T-cell product candidate, NY-ESO-1c259, currently in pivotal development.

“We are collaborating with them to potentially enhance this clinical-stage product candidate with Gen-R and Epi-R,” Lyell said, with preclinical efforts and IND-enabling studies underway. “We anticipate GSK will conduct initial clinical trials with the enhanced product candidate in synovial sarcoma and multiple other solid tumor indications” and plot an IND submission in the first half of next year.