J&J partner Aduro rides the immuno-oncology wave with $86M IPO

Aduro Biotech is taking its "breakthrough" set of immuno-oncology projects to Wall Street, where they will see if investors still have a big appetite for biotech IPOs. The company filed its S-1 on Wednesday, laying out its case for an $86 million initial offering that will help fund its late-stage work in the field.

Aduro's pitch relies quite a lot on its Phase IIa data for CRS-207 combined with a once-failed cancer vaccine dubbed GVAX. That study was stopped early on promising data, winning the FDA over with a breakthrough therapy designation that has made this company--a 2014 Fierce 15 player--prominent in one of the hottest fields in drug R&D. And the combo is now in a Phase IIb study for pancreatic cancer, with topline data due out in the first half of 2016.

Like most biotechs, Aduro has racked up a considerable amount of red ink. The biotech reports an accumulated deficit of $61 million at the end of 2014, when it had $119 million in the bank. A few days into 2015, though, the biotech banked a $51 million crossover round, with partner J&J joining the syndicate.

The biotech inked its second licensing pact of the year with Johnson & Johnson in October, kicking in a $30 million upfront and boosting its total milestone package to the $1 billion-plus category. With the J&J Innovation Center in the Bay Area leading the way, the pharma giant grabbed rights to new product candidates for lung and other types of cancer, convinced that Aduro's platform tech holds great promise for beefing up its oncology pipeline. J&J's $817 million deal includes potential milestones for successful development efforts as it hitched a ride on a tech platform focused on the ability of engineered Listeria monocytogenes strains to kick up an immune response against cancer.

That round of deals and dollars helped CEO Stephen Isaacs triple his pay last year, taking home $1.5 million.

According to the S-1, Morningside Venture has a leading 37.8% stake in the biotech. Isaacs has a 3.3% interest, while J&J Development owns 6.6%.

With the end of Q1 looming, several biotechs are lining up to go public.

# Kempharm, which is developing an abuse-deterrent version of Vicodin, filed for a $57 million IPO on Wednesday. The Coralville, IA-based company says it's planning on an NDA with the FDA in the second half of this year. S-1

# Toronto-based Trillium Therapeutics, meanwhile, filed a $57.5 million F-1 with the SEC. The biotech is prepping an IND for its lead cancer drug, SIRPaFc, an "antibody-like protein that harnesses the innate immune system by blocking the activity of CD47." F-1

- here's the S-1

Special Report: FierceBiotech's 2014 Fierce 15 - Aduro BioTech