Aduro Biotech Launches $119 Million IPO with Hot Cancer Tech

Published: Apr 16, 2015

Aduro Biotech Launches $119 Million IPO with Hot Cancer Tech
April 15, 2015
By Mark Terry and Riley McDermid, Breaking News Staff

Berkeley, Calif.-based Aduro Biotech announced today the initial public offering (IPO) of 7,000,000 shares of stock. The initial price is $17 per share. As part of the celebration, Stephen Isaacs, chair, president and chief executive officer of the company rang the Opening Bell at the NASDAQ.

The company has two technology platforms, LADD and CDN. Both work to enhance immune responses to cancer cells, and are the basis for several different drugs and therapeutics. Several LADD-based programs are currently in Phase II trials for pancreatic cancer, with several others in preclinical and Phase I trials for mesothelioma, ovarian cancer, glioblastoma, prostate cancer, lung cancer and palpable tumors.

The Johnson & Johnson venture capital subsidiary, Johnston & Johnson Innovation, plans to purchase up to $30 million shares, increasing its stake in the company from 6.3 percent to 8.4 percent. In May 2014 Aduro inked a licensing deal with Janssen Biotech to license any product candidates for prostate cancer based on its LADD platform. Janssen is a Johnson & Johnson company.

On March 30, 2015, Aduro announced a collaboration deal with Novartis AG for global research, development and commercialization of any immuno-oncology products that are developed as the results of Aduro’s cyclic dinucleotide (CDN) methodology to target the STING (Stimulator of Interferon Genes) receptor. When activated STING starts immune responses against tumors.

“We are extremely pleased to enter into this relationship with Novartis as their strong commitment and spirit of collaboration was evident early in our conversations,” said Isaacs in a statement. “We believe they are an ideal partner not only because of their stature as a premier healthcare company with a major focus in oncology, but also because they demonstrated a keen understanding and appreciation for our novel CDN approach, have synergistic innovation and scientific strengths and of course offer tremendous clinical and commercial expertise which we expect will broaden and accelerate the potential to bring products developed from this novel technology to patients in need.”

Novartis made a $200 million upfront payment to Aduro and will receive up to $500 million more if various milestones are achieved. Aduro will head commercialization endeavors and handle sales in the U.S., and Novartis will handle commercialization everywhere else. They will share in potential profits in the U.S., Japan and major European countries. Novartis will pay Aduro mid-teen royalties for other worldwide sales.

Aduro originally intended to sell just 5 million shares with an initial price of $14 to $16 per share. Launched today at $17 per share, it plans to sell all 7 million shares and the underwriters will offer a 30-day option to buy an additional 1,050,000 shares at the IPO price minus the underwriting discount. Aduro is entering the market at an interesting time. New data from the Exit Poll report by Thomson Reuters and the National Venture Capital Association on April 6 shows that initial public offerings dropped 54 percent during the first quarter of 2015, with a 58 percent decrease in dollars invested in the 17 offerings, 13 of which were life sciences IPOs.

Overall, the 17 venture-backed IPOs raised $1.4 billion during the first quarter of 2015, with life sciences IPOs representing 76 percent of total listings in the first quarter.

“This quarter marked the first quarter to see less than 20 venture-backed IPOs since the first quarter of 2013,” said the report.

“For the first quarter of 2015, 86 venture-backed M&A deals were reported, 16 of which had an aggregate deal value of $2.1 billion. Venture-backed M&A activity during the quarter fell to its lowest levels, by number of deals and disclosed value, since the first quarter of 2013.”

It’s been a rocky ride on the capital markets as well, with the some exchange-traded funds, like iShares Nasdaq Biotechnology Index Fund losing as much as 2.23 percent during the past week alone. Those loses have trimmed a nearly three-fold gain in the NBI since 2012, and may be indicative of investor caution as venture capitalists sit on the sidelines and wait for volatility to die down.

“With such a blistering pace for venture-backed exit activity in 2014, it was only a matter of time before we saw a drop activity. Despite the decline in venture-backed IPOs for the quarter, a lot of promising young companies made their debut on the public markets with many more waiting in the wings,” said Bobby Franklin, president and chief executive of NVCA.

There were also a few notable pull-outs from companies that decided to wait until the market was at a higher point, a common tactic used by corporate boards to make sure their IPO gets the maximum amount of value possible. Among those were Koltan Pharmaceuticals and Israeli company PolyPid Ltd. , which in a terse statement the Petach Tikva, Israel-based firm said it would withdraw its plans for the $20 million IPO, which had been priced at a range of $10 to $12 a share.

There had been rumors that a recent selloff in the biotech sector, which has dropped 7 percent the last week in march, and thus would have value the company at a lower amount, pushed PolyPid to pull its IPO. But Asaf Bar, chief business officer, told the Wall Street Journal other factors were in play.

“We were very confident with our ability to go public even with the market conditions,” he said. Bar added the company will wait for its pipeline milestones in the second half of 2015 before attempting another IPO.

Cheerleaders for the industry also remained sanguine about the near halving of the offerings on tap last quarter, saying that with investment happening at such a rapid and unprecedented clip in 2015, some pullback was inevitable—though likely not permanent.

“With 54 venture-backed companies having already filed publicly for IPOs and many more confidential registrations already in place, we are optimistic that the pace for venture-backed exits will pick up steam as the year moves ahead, creating opportunities for everyday investors to be shareholders of innovation,” said Franklin.

BioSpace Temperature Poll
After last week's news that Gilead had issued a health advisory to doctors, concern is growing after nine patients taking Harvoni or Sovaldi along with another drug, amiodarone, were treated for abnormally slow heartbeats. One of the patients died of cardiac arrest. Three of the nine patients required a pacemaker. That has BioSpace asking, what next?

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