IPO hopefuls look to extend biotech's window with $123M in fresh pitches

The expected deluge of first-quarter biotech IPO filings roars on with new filings from Flexion Therapeutics and Aquinox Pharmaceuticals, two drug developers looking for a combined $123 million and hoping 2013's bull market carries over into the new year.

Aquinox, which plans to trade on Nasdaq under "AQXP," is shooting for up to $57.5 million to fund its pipeline of treatments for inflammation and cancer. Its lead candidate, AQX-1125, is a Phase II PI3K-targeting drug with applications in COPD and other chronic inflammatory ailments. The company also has some preclinical assets that modulate PI3K to treat cancer. In April, the Canadian outfit picked up $18 million in venture cash to fund AQX-1125's mid-stage development, with the venture arms Johnson & Johnson ($JNJ) and Pfizer ($PFE) among its benefactors.

As for Flexion, the Burlington, MA, biotech has its sights set on $68 million and a spot on the Nasdaq as "FLXN," planning to spend its haul on the sustained-release steroid FX006, a nearly Phase III-ready drug that treats osteoarthritis pain. The company is also developing the preclinical FX007 for postoperative pain and the Phase II FX005 to treat end-stage osteoarthritis. Flexion has been working off a $20 million Series B closed in late 2012 and expects its potential IPO payday to carry it into late-stage studies.

The two join a standing-room-only gaggle of biotechs looking to go public in the early part of 2014, and the buzz at this month's J.P. Morgan Healthcare Conference was that at least 25 companies were drawing up S-1s, embarking on roadshows and queuing up to get out in the first quarter.

Leading the latest class are Ultragenyx, a 2013 Fierce 15 winner seeking $80 million; Cara Therapeutics, a pain-med developer swinging for as much as $65 million; and Dicerna Pharmaceuticals, an RNAi outfit out for $60 million. Meanwhile, Auspex Pharmaceuticals, Revance Therapeutics, Argos Therapeutics and many more wait in the wings with pitches that would total close to $1 billion if they all came to fruition.

- here's Aquinox's filing
- check out Flexion's S-1