Portola rolls out $115M IPO plan as more biotech outfits go public

The list of biotechs going public grows longer. With public investors warming to biotech IPOs, Portola Pharmaceuticals has proposed a public debut with a relatively sizable maximum aggregate offering amount of $115 million.

The South San Francisco-based biotech, a 2009 Fierce 15 company, filed to go public Friday featuring a lead candidate called betrixaban in Phase III development. After former partner Merck ($MRK) handed back rights to the Factor Xa inhibitor to Portola in 2011, Portola CEO William Lis pushed his company to pursue the program alone. The late-stage development plan focuses on use of the candidate as a preventive treatment for acutely ill patients with a form of thrombosis called venous thromboembolism.

Portola, which wrapped up 2012 with $137.4 million in cash and equivalents, plans to pump proceeds of its IPO into development of betrixaban and its other pipeline candidates: PRT4445, which the company is studying in Phase II as an antidote to reverse uncontrolled bleeding after getting Factor Xa inhibitors, with Pfizer ($PFE) and Bristol-Myers Squibb ($BMY) as well as Johnson & Johnson ($JNJ) and Bayer aiding the effort as both those duos seek antidotes for their new blood thinners; PRT2607, the company's spleen tyrosine kinase (Syk) inhibitor, is in Phase I development in partnership with Biogen Idec ($BIIB) for treating allergic asthma; and PRT2070 is the company's dual inhibitor of Syk and janus kinases, which the company plans to advance into a Phase I/II study for relapsed cases of B-cell blood cancers later this year.

While the four big pharma outfits have supported the Factor Xa antidote, Portola says that it has held onto worldwide rights to the recombinant protein therapy.

Portola comes to the table with an accumulated deficit of $202.3 million as of the end of December and a lengthy list of institutional shareholders led by Maxwell (Mauritius) Pte Ltd, Eastern Capital and MPM BioVentures. Portola aims to list its shares on the Nasdaq Global Market under the symbol "PLTA."

At the current rate, the biotech sector could churn out enough initial public offerings this year to topple the total of 10 such deals in 2012. So far Stemline, Tetraphase, Enanta and most recently Omthera and Chimerix have completed IPOs this year, with several more companies--including Portola now--in the queue.

- here's the S-1 filing
- and an article from The San Francisco Business Times