IPO and SPAC Boom Continues as More Life Sciences Companies Announce Terms

Nasdaq_Ben Hider/Getty Images

Ben Hider/Getty Images

With 2020 holding a record number of biotech IPOs, this year is lining up to come close. Three more Bay Area life sciences companies are just about ready to hit the Nasdaq, adding to the growing list for 2021.  

The most recognizable name on the list is ancestry and health company 23andMe. Known best for their “spit tests” that reveal clients genetic background, the company not only breaks down ethnic roots but also provides important health insights for disease risk. 

The company is skipping the traditional IPO route to go public via the ever-growing in popularity special purpose acquisition company, SPAC. With 23andMe’s massive database, billionaire Sir Richard Branson sees the opportunity for more rapid, personalized drug development. His SPAC company, VG Acquisition Corp., is expecting to seal the merger by mid-year, valuing the company at $3.6 billion.  

Jasper Therapeutics is another company jumping aboard the SPAC train to join the Nasdaq. Focused on increasing stem cell transplant safety through antibody-based therapies, Jasper has entered into a definitive business combination agreement with Amplitude Health Acquisition Corporation. The deal keeps up to $100 million in a trust at Amplitude along with a public investment in private equity financing of another $100 million.  

Jasper’s lead program, JSP191 is currently in an early-stage safety trial for patients with acute myeloid leukemia and myelodysplastic syndromes and severe combined immunodeficiency. The first-in-class drug is a conditioning agent antibody, developed to clear hematopoietic stem cells from bone marrow to make space for new donor or gene-corrected stem cells to engraft.  

Cash from the deal will advance JSP191 through clinical development and also advance the company’s preclinical Engineered Hematopoietic Stem Cell (eHSCs) platform. Using mRNA or DNA editing, the platform is designed to overcome the biggest limitations of allogeneic and autologous gene-edited stem cell grafts.  

"This transaction provides significant capital to accelerate the development of our two innovative programs — Jasper's first-in-class clinical stage anti-CD177 antibody transplant conditioning agent and in parallel our groundbreaking research stage engineered hematopoietic stem cell platform — both of which have the potential to transform the field and expand hematopoietic stem cell therapy cures to a far greater number of patients than is possible today," Executive Chairman and CEO Lis said in a statement. 

San Francisco-based Day One Biopharmaceuticals is taking the more traditional route to the market. Founded in 2018, the biotech has raised $190 million in the last 12 months alone. The childhood cancer drug developer has now filed for its IPO with a $100 million raise goal.  

Its first drug, aimed at pediatric cancer in the brain, is already in mid-stage clinical trials. DAY101 is a brain-penetrating, highly selective type II pan-rapidly accelerated fibrosarcoma kinase inhibitor designed to fight brain and spine cancers. A Phase II trial is anticipated soon for children with relapsed or progressive low-grade glioma, the most common brain tumor for kids. The hope is for an NDA filing in 2023. 

The company’s second candidate is a small molecule inhibitor in development to use in combination with DAY101. A Phase Ib/II trial is anticipated in early 2022. 

French vaccine developer went public this week, completing a $93.5 million IPO. Valneva has a COVID-19 vaccine in the pipeline. Its stock prices were bolstered yesterday as big name Moderna and BioNTech fell amidst President Biden’s announcement in support of waiving the intellectual property protections for COVID-19 vaccines in an effort to stop the pandemic.  

Valneva plans to use the proceeds to develop its COVID-19 vaccine candidate, VLA2001, and two additional vaccines – one to prevent Lyme disease and another to fight chikungunya virus, usually spread by mosquitos. 

"We believe that, if approved, our [COVID-19] vaccine, as an inactivated virus vaccine, could offer benefits in terms of safety, cost, ease of manufacture and distribution compared to currently approved vaccines and could be adapted to offer protection against mutations of the virus," Valneva told the Securities and Exchange Commission in its registration statement. 

Meanwhile, cell therapy company Talaris Therapeutics has upped its initial offering terms to 8.825 million shares at the price of $17 a pop, increasing proceed expectations to $150 million. Eye-disease gene therapy player Gyroscope Therapeutics announced a postponement of its plans for an IPO, “in light of market conditions.” 

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