A big $76M round, undisclosed investors; is an IPO looming for aTyr?

aTyr Pharma CEO John Mendlein

A big venture round led by Sofinnova Ventures and backed by a lengthy string of biotech stalwarts and public investment firms is bound to get tongues wagging again about a possible IPO in the near future for San Diego-based aTyr.

The biotech put out the word that it has raised $76 million in a Series E, adding a roster of new investors that includes T. Rowe Price Associates, Federated Investors, Deerfield; Rock Springs Capital Management; EcoR1 Capital; Sphera Global Healthcare and two additional undisclosed institutional investors. Current venture capital investors--a group that included Alta Partners, Cardinal Partners, Domain Associates and Polaris Venture Partners in the last round in 2013, "and a current public investment fund also took part in the raise."

Whatever aTyr's IPO plans are, the money will primarily go to its lead program for Resolaris, which is in a Phase Ib/II trial for rare cases of facioscapulohumeral muscular dystrophy (FSHD). The biotech is a spinout from Scripps, where investigators came up with a new class of drugs called physiocrines, therapies designed to restore homeostasis. Essentially physiocrines are rescue proteins that help repair and protect cells stressed by injuries and inflammation. That approach could be widely applicable, but aTyr has long focused on a development strategy centered on rare diseases.  

This isn't the first time aTyr has flirted with an investment group that inspired speculation about a possible IPO. The biotech kept at least one big name out of its announcement about its last syndicate. And CEO John Mendlein wasn't ruling out an offering when he talked with FierceBiotech back in mid-2013, as the current IPO boom was getting started in earnest.

We have a query out now to see if the company wants to clarify its plans.

"The proceeds from this financing, led by top-tier biotechnology institutional investors, will help support the development of our lead clinical candidate Resolaris and its Phase Ib/II trial for patients with facioscapulohumeral muscular dystrophy (FSHD), as well as expansion to additional indications," said Mendlein in a statement.

- here's the release