Plot thickens as Lilly, J&J-backed Protagonist files for $75M IPO

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A year after the small, early-stage Californian IBD biotech Protagonist Therapeutics managed to raise $40 million, the company is now seeking to go public with a $75 million offering.

The Milpitas, CA-based biotech is doing early work on an oral peptide drug to treat inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), which includes major blockbuster conditions such as Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis.

Current treatments--such as the $13 billion a year Humira (adalimumab) from AbbVie ($ABBV)--are injectable. Protagonist, however, will hope to gain an edge by taking the oral route, a major next-gen hurdle that could pave the way to safer, more effective and easier-to-manage drugs.

This is no easy task, as the digestive system is a very tricky route for oral peptides, but Protagonist’s early-stage work in the field on its Phase I candidate PTG-100 and preclinical work on PTG-200 have been enough to garner interest from the venture arms of Eli Lilly ($LLY) and Johnson & Johnson ($JNJ) for its $40 million round last year.

It will now hope this interest will grow for its $75 million offering, coming as it does during a particularly rough patch for biotech IPOs--although there has been a small lift in the market in recent months.

The biotech, which was founded in 2001 as a spinout from the University of Queensland's Institute of Molecular Biosciences, plans to list on the Nasdaq under the symbol "PTGX."

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Protagonist Therapeutics lands $40M round for an oral peptide IBD drug