Drug developers uniQure ($QURE), Auspex Pharmaceuticals ($ASPX) and Genocea Biosciences ($GNCA) joined the fast-growing club of biotechs pulling off IPOs in a busy first quarter, pricing up-sized offerings and walking away with a total of about $242 million.
The Netherlands' uniQure bagged $91.8 million in its offering, which priced above the biotech's expected range and will boil down to about $81.9 million after discounts and expenses, the company said. UniQure, a 2013 Fierce 15 honoree, won the first-ever Western approval for a gene therapy when the European Commission OK'd Glybera for lipoprotein lipase deficiency in 2012, and the company plans to spend a chunk of its raise gearing up for a first-half launch of that drug. In addition, the biotech plans to get the hemophilia B-treating AMT-060 into a Phase I/II trial with the help of collaborator Chiesi.
Meanwhile, La Jolla, CA's Auspex raked in $84 million in a top-of-the-range offering to support its pipeline of orphan disease treatments. The company's lead candidate is SD-809, a VMAT-2 inhibitor for movement disorders, and Auspex is in the midst of a Phase III study on abnormal involuntary movements associated with Huntington's disease, planning to file with the FDA this year for a potential 2015 launch. At the same time, Auspex is plotting a Phase IIb trial of the drug in tardive dyskinesia and is soon to launch a Phase Ib study to see whether SD-809 can treat tics associated with Tourette syndrome.
Finally, Genocea picked up $66 million in its IPO, and the 2008 Fierce 15 company is developing two early-stage T-cell vaccines for herpes and all strains of the bacteria pneumococcus. The biotech kicked off a Phase I study for the latter late last year, touting its vaccine as more comprehensive than Pfizer's ($PFE) blockbuster Prevnar 13. The promise of Genocea's pipeline was convincing enough to win the support of some major players, and the company's most recent funding round, a $30 million Series C, attracted the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, Johnson & Johnson's ($JNJ) investment arm and Polaris Venture Partners.
The three biotechs are among 9 IPO hopefuls expected to price their offerings this week, lining up to raise $500 million as 2013's boom shows no signs of slowing down in the new year. Diagnostics outfit Biocept ($BIOC) cleared $19 million in its Wall Street debut, and still to come are IPOs from Eleven Biotherapeutics, Revance Therapeutics, Argos Therapeutics, Egalt and NephroGenex.
Last week, Dicerna ($DRNA) and Ultragenyx ($RARE) pulled off soaring debuts in the first sign that investors are keeping the faith despite a crowding field of drug developers with sights set on going public. Whether that optimism lasts through the winter remains to be seen, and the buzz at last month's J.P. Morgan Healthcare conference was that at least 25 more biotechs were making the roadshow rounds, stirring concerns that this could all be a burst-ready bubble.
- read Auspex's release
- check out uniQure's statement
Special Reports: FierceBiotech's 2013 Fierce 15 - UniQure | FierceBiotech's 2008 Fierce 15 - Genocea Biosciences