Biotech Chimerix shines in IPO debut as interest grows in antiviral drugs

Chimerix sped out of the IPO gate on Thursday. The Durham, NC-based drug developer's ($CMRX) stock soared on its first day of trading, with an initial price of $14 per share that shot up 34% to $18.79 per share by the end of the day. The stellar start followed optimism on Wall Street about the biotech's pipeline of antiviral therapies with big sales potential.

As The News & Observer reported, Chimerix raised $102 million in the IPO. The company priced at the middle of its proposed $13-to-$15 range, and showed strong demand for its shares in short order.

"This deal had so much demand we ultimately asked the insiders to give up their shares to let others come in," said Chimerix backer Art Pappas, who is managing partner of Pappas Ventures in Durham, as quoted by the newspaper in Raleigh. "It was oversubscribed at four times what we were trying to raise."

Venture investors haven't always sounded as buoyant as Pappas after their portfolio companies in biotech go public. Yet some of this year's biotech IPOs have produced excellent results. Last month Watertown, MA-based Enanta Pharmaceuticals ($ENTA) debuted at $14 per share, soared by a double-digit percentage on its first day, and was trading at $20.65 per share late this morning.

Both Chimerix and Enanta have stoked early interest from public investors as the companies advance new antiviral therapies. Chimerix has a partnership with Merck ($MRK) on an HIV candidate and the biotech's pipeline features a late-stage candidate called CMX001 for preventing cytomegalovirus (CMV) infection.

Enanta, meanwhile, is developing antiviral drugs in the hot hepatitis C field, with one of its candidates included in an all-oral combo therapy from AbbVie ($ABBV) in Phase III development. AbbVie's combo treatment has blockbuster potential, though analysts have noted that Gilead ($GILD) has the potential to offer a more simple all-oral attack on the liver-damaging virus.

Not all the biotech IPOs have gone as smoothly as those for Enanta and Chimerix. Omthera ($OMTH), for example, went public yesterday at $8 per share and as of late this morning was trading at $7.36 per share. The company is a bet on a late-stage omega-3 drug called Epanova, which, if approved, would face competition from GlaxoSmithKline's ($GSK) and Amarin's ($AMRN) rival fish-oil drugs.

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