Fate Therapeutics, founded by stem cell experts, targets $69M IPO

Another day, another cash-hungry biotech company seeking an initial public offering. San Diego-based Fate Therapeutics has become the latest drug developer to toss its hat in the IPO ring, aiming to score as much as $69 million, the company said in an SEC filing.

Fate launched in 2007 with a lot of fanfare in biotech circles, in part because of its plans to harness the power of adult stem cells to treat diseases rather than tapping controversial embryonic stem cells for therapeutic purposes. And a bevy of stem cell experts from around the country, including Harvard Medical School's Dr. Leonard Zon, signed on as scientific founders.

Six years later, the startup has advanced its research to midstage clinical development. Its lead product, ProHema, uses modified umbilical cord blood to speed engraftment of the transplanted cells and restore immune functions faster in patients. The company has shown some evidence of efficacy in an early clinical trial in patients with blood cancers. Other programs in the works include treatments for patients with lysosomal storage disorders and muscular dystrophies.

Fate, which wants to be listed on the Nasdaq under the ticker "FATE," wrapped up the quarter ending June 30 with an accumulated deficit of $74.7 million and cash and equivalents of $3.4 million, according to the SEC filing. So the IPO would give the old balance sheet a nice boost. The company is also seeking the FDA's approval for an amendment to its manufacturing process for ProHema, which prompted the company to delay enrollment in a Phase II study. The company aims to resume enrollment next year.

Almost 30 biotech companies have gone public in 2013, with more IPOs in the pipeline, yet nobody knows when the sun will set on the blazing-hot market for such deals. Fate, led by CEO Dr. Christian Weyer, and the company's shareholders are counting on prolonged interest from public investors.  

Arch Venture Partners, Polaris Venture Partners and Venrock are the top three shareholders at Fate, each with 16.8% stakes in the startup. Earlier this week, Polaris-backed Bind Therapeutics joined the list of IPO prospects, too.

- read the SEC filing

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