Immuno-oncology player Neon Therapeutics looks for $115M in IPO

Neon Therapeutics filed to raise $115 million in its Nasdaq IPO, capital that will support a pair of ongoing clinical trials, as well as additional trials, of its lead asset, NEO-PV-01, a personalized neoantigen cancer vaccine made from up to 20 antigens harvested from patients' own tumor cells.

The cash will also fund research and preclinical programs, including NEO-PTC-01, a neoantigen T-cell therapy being developed for solid tumors, and NEO-SV-01, a neoantigen vaccine for breast cancer, according to an SEC filing. The company plans to push both into phase 1.

Cambridge, Massachusetts-based Neon bases its personalized immuno-oncology treatments on neoantigens, or antigens that are foreign to the body but found in cancer cells and so can be leveraged to drive the immune system to attack tumors. It previously banked $70 million in series B financing in January 2017, adding another $36 million to its coffers in December.

"Future financing activities, including a potential IPO, will be dictated by our progress and data," Neon Therapeutics CEO Hugh O'Dowd said at the time. "Partnering could bring some important complementary capabilities and assets to our programs, but it is important that the right partners and the right structures are considered to ensure Neon … can remain independent and retain important value-creating rights."

"This financing ensures that Neon Therapeutics is not dependent on partnering activities to finance its activities," O'Dowd said at the series B close, adding that the company had no near-term plans to pursue a public offering to gather more funds.

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The cancer vaccine field is a particularly tricky one, with a laundry list of candidates showing early promise but proving to be disappointing in the clinic. Argos Therapeutics is one of the latest biotechs to admit failure and abandon a cancer vaccine—it pushed on with its kidney cancer vaccine in spite of advice to give up, eventually dropping the program in April.