Step Aside Juno: World's Richest Doctor Pulls Off Largest Biotech IPO Ever

Published: Aug 04, 2015

Step Aside Juno: World's Richest Doctor Pulls Off Largest Biotech IPO Ever
July 29, 2015
By Alex Keown, BioSpace.com Breaking News Staff

LOS ANGELES – There’s a new golden boy on the block when it comes to pharmaceutical IPOs and its name is NantKwest Inc. , an oncology company owned by Patrick Soon-Shiong, part owner of the Los Angeles Lakers.

The on Tuesday, its first day of trading to close at $34.65, up $9.64 from its opening price. The stock actually reached a high of $38.48 on its first day. This morning the stock is continuing with positive momentum, currently trading at $35.17. The company trades on the .

The Wall Street Journal reported NantKwest’s IPO was the highest ever for a biotech company with no approved drugs. The company raised approximately $265 million on the sale of 8.3 million shares. Nantkwest has a market value of $2.6 billion, the Journal said.

Boris Peaker, a biotech analyst with Cowen & Co. told the LA Times that it could take years before NantKwest could think of seeking regulatory approval for the NK cells. He speculated that one reason investors were attracted to NantKwest was the persona of Soon-Shiong.

“Patrick is a successful biotech entrepreneur. When people look for who to invest with, having somebody who's a local billionaire and seems to believe in this is an encouraging sign,” Peaker told the Times.

In addition to Soon-Shiong’s track record, the Journal noted investors are “turning to biotech stocks in part because they expect paltry returns from safer investments amid tepid global growth.”

NantKwest is developing “the natural killer cell” as a first-line defense in cancer treatment. Natural Killer (NK) cells have the “innate ability to rapidly seek and destroy abnormal cells, such as cancer or virally-infected cells, without prior exposure or activation by other support molecules,” the company said on its website. The company is moving into Phase II clinical trials to use it NK cells as a treatment for Merkel cell carcinoma, the Los Angeles Times reported.

NantKwest’s IPO bested Seattle-based Juno Therapeutics, which posted an IPO of $191 million in December of 2014. While Nantkwest topped Juno’s IPO, that company has a market value of more than $4 billion. Juno’s value is likely to increase even higher following Celgene’s acquisition of a $1 billion stake in the Seattle company. In June the two companies entered into a 10 year collaborative agreement to leverage combined immunology and oncology expertise to develop treatments for cancer and autoimmune diseases. Juno is developing cell-based cancer immunotherapies based on chimeric antigen receptor and high-affinity T cell receptor technologies to genetically engineer T cells to recognize and kill cancer. JCAR015 is Juno’s chimeric antigen receptor product candidate indicated for the treatment of relapsed or refractory B-cell acute lymphoblastic leukemia. JCAR015 is currently the subject of a Phase I trial, which is designed to determine the safety and appropriate dose of modified T cells in patients. Chimeric antigen receptor technology employs the body’s immune system to attack cancer cells. JCAR014, JCAR016 and JCAR017 are also Juno CAR-T cell product candidates in current levels of testing.

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