Editas and BeiGene break biotech's IPO drought and stoke hopes of a turnaround

Editas CEO Katrine Bosley

After more than 60 days without a single successful biotech IPO, a pair of drug developers have made their way to the Nasdaq, going public without offering discounts and heralding hope that a dismal market might pick back up.

Editas Medicine ($EDIT), a Cambridge, MA, upstart at work on gene editing technologies, raised $94.4 million by pricing 5.9 million shares at $16. The final price comes in at the bottom of the company's projected range, valuing Editas at about $571 million altogether.

And BeiGene ($BGNE), a Chinese-headquartered drug developer, picked up $158.4 million by pricing 6.6 million American depository shares--each good for 13 regular shares--at $24 apiece, hitting the top of its expected valuation range.

The debuts mark 2016's first IPO pricings for any company, biotech or otherwise, and their relative success will likely embolden bullish investors waiting on a turnaround.

Biotech valuations have tanked since the fall, slowing the flow of IPOs to halt in November, and concerns about drug pricing and overvalued assets have dragged stock prices down across the industry. The Nasdaq biotech index fell more than 20% in January without a single catalytic event, lending weight to the theory that biotech's years-long boom is drawing to a close.

Editas, founded in 2013, is using newfangled gene editing technology to craft treatments for inherited diseases, advancing more than a dozen discovery-stage programs with hopes of starting clinical development in 2017. With is IPO proceeds, the company plans to bankroll its early-stage research efforts and support its partnership with Juno Therapeutics ($JUNO), which is focused on immuno-oncology.

BeiGene is putting its new funds toward a pipeline of targeted cancer treatments, led by a Phase II blood cancer drug that, like Johnson & Johnson's ($JNJ) blockbuster Imbruvica, blocks the enzyme BTK to kill malignancies. The firm is also working through clinical development for a checkpoint inhibitor, a Merck KGaA-partnered therapy for solid tumors and an oral drug with potential in ovarian and other cancers.

- read Editas' statement
- here's BeiGene's release