Calithera ekes out an $80M IPO as Dermira, Forward hope for a turnaround

Cancer biotech Calithera Biosciences ($CALA) pulled off an $80 million Wall Street debut, pricing well below its range as more and more drug developers line up in hopes of making it out of a tightening IPO window.

The company, headquartered in South San Francisco, moved 8 million shares--a 33% increase over its initial plans--at $10 each, a price that fell short of its earlier $13-to-$15 range. Calithera has earmarked most of its cash for CB-839, a drug that works by inhibiting an enzyme key to tumor metabolism, halting cancerous growth. The treatment is currently in the midst of 5 early-stage trials in solid tumors and blood cancers, and Calithera is also developing a preclinical immuno-oncology therapy.

Calithera's IPO haircut typifies the current climate for drug developers looking to cash in on the biggest biotech bull turn in recent memory, as the heady days of early 2014 have given way to a more volatile market for life sciences debuts.

But that hasn't stemmed the flow of filings.

Dermira, a developer of skin treatments, just up-sized its offering by nearly 45%, looking to offer 7.8 million shares at $14 to $16 each in hopes of raising up to $125 million. The company, which put together a $51 million C round in August, is at work on drugs for psoriasis, excessive sweating and acne.

And, over in Europe, a biotech micro-boom is brewing. Forward Pharma, a Danish biotech at work on multiple sclerosis, is looking to raise $200 million both to bankroll its own treatment and fund its patent challenge against Biogen Idec ($BIIB), a leader in the field. Meanwhile, Germany's Probiodrug, France's OSE Pharma and Switzerland's Molecular Partners are all angling to go public in European markets to support their pipelines.

On the macro level, despite widespread disappointment among IPO hopefuls, companies with differentiated assets and clear paths to market are still pulling off sizable offerings, including last month's $97 million debut from Tokai Pharmaceuticals ($TKAI) and recent successes from Sage Therapeutics ($SAGE), Zafgen ($ZFGN) and Kite Pharma ($KITE).

- read Calithera's release
- here's Dermira's S-1
- and Forward's filing

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