Langer’s nanoparticle biotech Selecta Biosciences shoots for $75M IPO

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After a strong year with a string of deals and successful funding rounds to its name, nanoparticle immunotherapy specialist Selecta Biosciences has filed for a long-anticipated $75 million initial public offering.

The Watertown, MA-based biotech is focused on synthetic vaccine particle immunotherapies that are aimed at tamping down an unwanted immune response--what the company calls a “negative vaccine” approach, with its lead product focused on treating gout.

The company has garnered much interest since being founded in 2007, recently signing new deals with Sanofi ($SNY) worth $300 million-plus to work on an unspecified food allergy, and an immunotherapy for celiac disease meant to induce tolerance to gluten, as well as with France’s gene therapy firm Genethon.

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Last September, in a Series E round, the biotech also raised $38 million--which was led by biotech investment giant OrbiMed, a firm that according to its SEC-1 form now owns just over 9% of the biotech’s stock.

The company plans to run under the ticker $SELB and aims to list on the Nasdaq, according to Renaissance Capital. An IPO has been expected from the company for the past year. Its biggest stockholders include Polaris Venture Partners (14.3%) Flagship Ventures Fund (13.5%) and Russian government VC RUSNANO (10.9%).

Selecta works with technology out of the lab of prolific MIT investigator Robert Langer, who came in with Omid Farokhzad and Ulrich von Andrian of the Harvard Medical School to establish the scientific foundation for the company.

The cash boost from the IPO--should it go through--will predominately go toward supporting its Phase II trial of SEL-212--a safer version of pegsiticase for treatment-resistant gout that is designed to not arouse an immune attack against the drug.

It will also look to fund preclinical studies for its gene therapy program. The biotech’s deal with France Genethon has already seen the two working to blend Selecta's SVP tech with an existing gene therapy from the French biotech.

Nanoparticles have become something of a growing interest in biotech, notably in oncology research, with Cambridge, MA-based Bind Therapeutics ($BIND) seen as leading the way in cancer nanoparticle research with its lead product BIND-014.

But it’s been an annus horribilis for the biotech, after recently cutting more than a third of its staff and then last month becoming one of only a handful of biotechs to declare for bankruptcy.

This came after it released a mixed bag of results in April for its Phase II program for its nanoparticle cancer drug. The so-so data saw it halt one trial and stop another until it can find a partner--and also came after previously failed tests against cervical and head-and-neck cancers.

Its CEO told FierceBiotech at the time that it simply couldn’t afford to run the second trial, which did have positive results, any further. The company says it is now considering all options, including selling itself, or its assets.

Eric Schmidt, a biotech analyst at the investment bank Cowen and Company in NYC, told the journal Nature last week that Bind remains at the technological forefront of nanoparticle drug delivery, but waited too long to move away from BIND-014. By then, the investor enthusiasm for biotechnology that had driven Bind’s 2013 initial public offering had cooled. “People are not interested in funding technology right now,” Schmidt says. “They’re interested in funding later-stage projects. And the one at this company didn’t have what it takes.”

Bind was in fact co-founded by Langer, who was more upbeat, telling the journal: “I personally would be shocked if 20 years from now, we’re not seeing a lot of nanotechnologies helping a lot of people. It will happen.”

Although not dealing as yet with cancer, Selecta’s IPO could prove a litmus test for the nanoparticle field in the wake of Bind’s problems--it also comes as a number of biotechs have been forced to slash the price of their offerings in recent months, with a growing number also abandoning their offerings altogether as headwinds persist.

-check out its SEC-1 form
-see the Renaissance Capital brief
-take a look at Nature’s cancer nanoparticle feature

Related Articles:
As funds dwindle, Bind Therapeutics, NephroGenex file for bankruptcy
Sanofi doubles down on Selecta collaboration, adding $300M in fresh incentives
Selecta banks $20M for trial work, inks a pact with Sanofi on diabetes

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