Rare-disease specialist Ultragenyx fires off a fast $86M IPO

Back in September, when Ultragenyx CEO Emil Kakkis was talking to FierceBiotech about the company for our annual Fierce 15 report, the biotech chief confidently predicted that he could take the company public next year. A few weeks later, though, the timetable was speeded up with a confidential filing, and late last week Kakkis posted an S-1 outlining plans to raise $86 million in a public debut that could arrive before the end of this year.

In just three years since he founded the Novato, CA-based company, Kakkis has built a biotech with four mid-stage programs, including the recently acquired KRN23, an antibody designed to treat rare cases of X-linked hypophosphatemia that is now wrapping a Phase I/II study at Kyowa Hakko Kirin. Two other enzyme replacement therapies are nearing the clinic, a bulging pipeline for a company that's still in its early days.

For a biotech to achieve that kind of growth while banking $105 million in commitments from some top venture capital backers is remarkable. Kakkis and his team, though, have been in a hurry to build a contender in one of the hottest arenas in biotech, carving out a place under the orphan-drug sun that is intended to win the hearts of investors.

As the CEO spelled out a few weeks ago, Ultragenyx's plan has been to push through the first wave to commercialization, with a marketing plan aimed at keeping some large markets around the globe. And he's not building a company designed for an acquisition; Kakkis, a veteran developer with a stint as CMO at BioMarin ($BMRN), has vowed to keep valuations so high that he can steer clear of a buyout.

"I want (employees) passionately interested in getting drugs approved, not flipping them," Kakkis told FierceBiotech. "I want to build a company that does that better than anybody else. I can't prevent a buyout after going public, but I can keep the value so high it would force overpaying to get us."

Its investors include Adage Capital Partners and T. Rowe Price Associates, funds and accounts under management by subsidiaries of BlackRock, Sanofi-Genzyme BioVentures 1 and Shire ($SHPG). Founding investors are TPG Biotech, Fidelity Biosciences, HealthCap and Pappas Ventures.

So far more than 40 biotechs have gone public this year, raising more than $3 billion. And there's a lengthy queue to get in before this window closes.

Alongside Ultragenyx, Cara Therapeutics filed an S-1 with plans to raise $60 million. Its lead pain drug has finished three Phase II studies with a Phase III slated to begin next year. The biotech will trade under CARA.

Kindred Biosciences in Burlingame, CA, meanwhile, is looking to raise $57 million. The company is developing new pet therapies and was, perhaps, inspired by the example of Aratana Therapeutics. Aratana ($PETX) went public earlier this year and has seen its share price explode, especially after it pulled off a buyout shortly after going public. 

- here's the S-1 on Ultragenyx
- here's the S-1 on Cara
- here's the S-1 on Kindred

Special Report: 2013 Fierce 15 - Ultragenyx