The IPO engine is thriving, never mind the rampage of the coronavirus crisis on R&D timelines.
On Friday, along with synthetic lethality-focused biotech Repare Therapeutics, another Bristol Myers partner Forma Therapeutics also unveiled its plans to vault on to the Nasdaq — penciling in a target of $150 million.
The Watertown, Massachusetts-based company — which poached senior Genentech executive Frank Lee to take over the reins last year after more than a decade under founder Steve Tregay — raised a plump $100 million late last year, while shepherding its sickle cell disease (SCD) drug through an early-stage trial.
Last November, the FDA ushered in the approval of two SCD therapies, injecting some optimism into an otherwise barren treatment landscape for patients with the blood disorder that is characterized by atypical hemoglobin molecules, which can distort red blood cells into a sickle, or crescent, shape. Novartis’ therapy, Adakveo, is designed to prevent periodic episodes of searing pain called vaso-occlusive crises (VOCs) that deprive the deprive the body of oxygen-rich blood, while Global Blood Therapeutics’ voxelotor is designed to work by increasing hemoglobin’s affinity for oxygen.
Instead of addressing symptoms of SCD, Forma’s lead therapy, FT-4202, is designed to change the course of the disease as an activator of the enzyme pyruvate kinase-R (PKR) to improve red blood cell metabolism, function and survival, potentially resulting in both increased hemoglobin levels and fewer VOCs. Forma is in a crowded field of therapies in development, with other drugmakers including bluebird bio, Imara, and partners CRISPR Therapeutics and Vertex, also working on their own drugs.
Meanwhile, Forma also plans to evaluate the use of FT-4202 in beta thalassemia. The company also has a brimming pipeline, including an AML drug and a NASH therapy in mid-stage development, as well as earlier-stage compounds for NASH, NHL (partnered with Bristol Myers Squibb) and solid tumors (in collaboration with Boehringer Ingelheim).
There has been a flurry of biopharma IPO’s in recently — Generation Bio, Avidity and Vaxcyte set their sights on a combined $325 million and the week before ADC Therapeutics raked in $233 million in an upsized offering — despite the general pandemonium on Wall Street due to Covid-19. But the life sciences sector has emerged largely immune from the rout.
Sweden’s Calliditas, which last week said it was eyeing a $75 million raise (a modest sum compared to some of the splashier public debuts seen in recent weeks), on Monday indicated it was commencing an investor roadshow. The company, which is developing a therapy for an orphan kidney disease, already has a Swedish listing.