Lumena swings for a $75M IPO to bear down on liver diseases

Lumena CEO Mike Grey

A month removed from raising $45 million in venture backing, San Diego's Lumena Pharmaceuticals wants $75 million more as it plots a Wall Street debut, piling up cash to advance its two liver treatments.

In keeping with its focus on hepatology, Lumena plans to trade on the Nasdaq under "LIVR," and the company hasn't yet disclosed how many shares it'll offer or at what range.

Lumena's top prospect is LUM001, an oral drug designed to block the body's ability to transport bile acid and thus halt the buildup of fluids that can cause major damage in patients with rare cholestatic liver diseases. The biotech is running 7 Phase II trials on the drug and expecting to report out data on each between now and early 2015. Lumena believes it can win FDA approval in Alagille syndrome and progressive familial intrahepatic cholestasis based on mid-stage data alone, and it's planning to take LUM001 into Phase III for primary biliary cirrhosis and primary sclerosing cholangitis.

Next up is LUM002, a Phase I bile blocker with potential in nonalcoholic steatohepatitis (NASH), a liver-destroying disease with no approved treatments. Lumena plans to post early-stage data on the drug in the first half of 2014 and kick off Phase II development by year's end, giving it a fast-moving candidate for one of the industry's most-hyped disease targets. Early this year, Intercept Pharmaceuticals ($ICPT) watched its shares nearly triple thanks to some excellent Phase IIb results for a NASH-treating compound, and Lumena is hoping its drug, licensed from Sanofi ($SNY), can do the same.

Lumena said last month's $45 million Series B, led by New Enterprise Associates, would pay the way through Phase II for both drugs, and the biotech has raised about $78 million since its foundation in 2011.

At January's annual J.P. Morgan Healthcare Conference, Lumena CEO Mike Grey told FierceBiotech that his company was keeping its options open with respect to going public but would likely wait until it had some mid-stage data to drive up valuation. That, of course, was before the industry's record-setting first quarter saw 29 biotechs raise $2.1 billion in Wall Street debuts, and the prospect of cashing out on a roiling market apparently changed Lumena's thinking.

Now Lumena joins a Q2 class of drug developers hoping to keep that momentum going, a group that includes Syndax Pharmaceuticals, Alder Biopharmaceuticals and Cerulean Pharma. If everything works out, the new crop of biotechs will raise roughly $500 million in total.

- here's Lumena's filing