Stem cell pioneer's biotech startup raises $46M in IPO

Cellular Dynamics International ($ICEL) snagged $46 million in an initial public offering of 3.8 million shares at $12 per share late Wednesday, pricing at the low end of a $12 to $14 range. The deal comes amid a busy week for biotech IPOs, with 5 life sciences companies scheduled to begin trading publicly this week, keeping the streak alive for such deals in the industry.

Madison, WI-based Cellular Dynamics's claim to fame is a platform for generating human cell lines for research, banking and other applications. Based on initial work by the renowned stem cell scientist and founder Dr. James Thomson of the University of Wisconsin, the company's cell lines are derived from coaxing human blood and skin cells into stem cells. The induced pluripotent stem (iPS) cells have found work in drug discovery and have potential therapeutic applications.

The company's public offering follows the wildly successful public debut of Agios Pharmaceuticals ($AGIO) and the smaller deal for Heat Biologics ($HTBX) this week. With those three deals, 26 life science companies have passed through the IPO window in 2013, a banner year for public debuts in biotech after the market for maiden offerings dried up in the aftermath of the 2008 financial freeze. Two more companies, Conatus and Onconova, are slated to go public this week as well.

Unlike most biotech groups going public this year, Cellular Dynamics comes to the table with product revenue from sales. The company has provided its cell lines to 18 of the 20 largest pharma companies, including groups such as AstraZeneca ($AZN), Eli Lilly ($LLY), GlaxoSmithKline ($GSK) and Roche ($RHHBY). Cellular Dynamics wants its human iPS cells to replace living animals, cadavers and transformed cells as model systems for testing drugs.

The company expects revenue of $2.7 million to $2.8 million in the quarter ending June 30, roughly double the amount from the same quarter of 2012. Yet the startup, which had a deficit of $87.8 million as of March 31, is losing money. It recorded net losses of more than $20 million in each of the past two years, and red ink continued to drip from its balance sheet in 2013.

In a shaky first day of trading, the company's shares slid down 12.5% to $10.50 per share as of 11:40 am ET Thursday.

- check out Renaissance Capital's post
- and Cellular's July 19 S-1/A document

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