Antibody drug conjugates, or ADCs, are picking up momentum. Of the 11 drugs in this class that have been approved by the FDA, six have reached the market in the last two years. Meanwhile, new ADC companies have been busy raising money. Pyxis Oncology is one of them, emerging earlier this year with drugs and ADC technology licensed from Pfizer. Now it has $168 million in IPO proceeds to ramp up its research.
Cambridge, Massachusetts-based Pyxis planned to offer 9.5 million shares in the range of $14 to $16 each. When the company moved forward with the IPO late last week, it added another 1 million shares priced at the top end of the projected price range. Those shares began trading Friday on the Nasdaq under the stock symbol “PYXS.”
ADCs are comprised of a drug payload linked to an antibody that homes in on tumors. The therapy is meant to provide a targeted strike to cancer cells that limits exposure of the toxic payload to healthy cells. The newest drug in this class is the ADC Therapeutics drug Zynlonta, which the FDA approved in April.
Pyxis said in its IPO prospectus that it aims to improve upon earlier ADCs. The company is developing ADCs that improve the stability of the therapy while it circulates in the blood to maximize how much of its drug payload is delivered upon reaching the tumor. By reducing the amount of drug that is released too early, the Pyxis ADCs are intended to cause less off-target effects, resulting in better safety.
The two ADC candidates licensed from Pfizer are PYX-201 and PYX-203. A third candidate, PYX-202, was licensed from LegoChem. All three are on track to reach clinical testing. The license to the Pfizer ADC technology, called Flexible Antibody Conjugation Technology (FACT), gives the company the capability to develop more ADCs.
Longwood Fund founded and launched Pyxis in 2019. The venture capital firm joined with Bayer to back the biotech’s $21.9 million Series A round of funding. At the time, the basis of Pyxis was technology licensed from the lab Thomas Gajewski, a professor of cancer immunotherapy at the University of Chicago. That technology has produced a catalog of cancer targets. Pyxis said in the IPO filing that this catalog will enable the company to identify new ways to target the tumor microenvironment with drugs, either immune-oncology therapies or ADCs.
Prior to the IPO, Pyxis had raised $174 million, according to the prospectus. The most recent financing was a $152 million Series B round that closed in March, nearly four months after the company licensed the two Pfizer ADCs Pfizer. After the IPO, Pfizer is Pyxis’s largest shareholder, with a 9% stake, followed by Bayer, which owns 8.6%.
Pyxis said in the IPO filing that it plans to apply $50 million and $45 million to PYX-201 and PYX-202 respectively, aiming to advance both ADC programs through the preclinical research to support investigational new drug applications and to start Phase 1 testing. Another $45 million is earmarked for the third ADC, PYX-203, which the company also aims to bring into the clinic. Other cash will be used to advance its immuno-oncology discovery programs and for business development.
Three more life science firms went public, kicking off the first week of the fourth quarter. Here’s a recap of those IPOs.
Theseus Pharma’s IPO raises $160M to tackle cancer drug resistance
Theseus Pharmaceuticals kept a mostly low profile until April of this year, when it presented preclinical data for its lead drug candidate at the annual meeting of the American Association for Cancer Research. At the same time, the biotech also unveiled its approach to overcoming cancer drug resistance along with $100 million in funding. The Boston-based biotech is preparing to advance to clinical trials, and it now has $160 million more in IPO cash to support its pipeline.
Theseus initially planned to offer more than 8.3 million shares in the range of $14 to $16 apiece. The biotech boosted the size of the deal to 10 million shares priced at the top end of the projected price range.
Theseus’ lead drug, THE-630 is a small molecule designed to block all classes of mutations to the KIT-gene, which drive type of gut cancer called gastrointestinal stromal tumor (GIST). The drug is based on intellectual property licensed from Ariad Pharmaceuticals, and Theseus is led by several veterans of that biotech, which was acquired by Takeda Pharmaceutical. The company aims to develop “pan-variant” drugs, which block proteins that are key for all major cancer-causing and drug resistant mutations. In its prospectus, the company said that it believes that such pan-variant inhibitor drugs are needed to effectively block the mix of resistance mutations, and to also suppress new ones when these drugs are used as an earlier line of treatment.
An investigational new drug application for THE-630 has been submitted to the FDA, and the company aims to start a Phase 1/2 by the middle of the first quarter of 2022. According to the prospectus, Thesus estimates it will spend between $85 million and $90 million to develop THE-630 through Phase 1/2 testing, and the potential start of a pivotal clinical trial. Another $45 to $50 million is planned for continuing development of its EGFR inhibitor program, including the nomination of a drug candidate and the potential start of a clinical trial. Up to $30 million is earmarked for R&D of other pan-variant kinase inhibitors. The company estimates that the cash is enough to support the company into the second half of 2024.
Since its formation in 2019 and prior to its IPO, Theseus had raised about $120 million. OrbiMed Advisors is the company’s largest shareholder, holding a 45.2% post-IPO stake, according to the prospectus. Theseus shares now trade on the Nasdaq under the stock symbol “THRX.”
IsoPlexis adds $125M to back its single-cell analysis tech
IsoPlexis doesn’t discover or develop new drugs, but its technologies support the scientists who do. The company has commercialized a technology platform that biopharmaceutical companies as well as and academic and research institutions use to analyze proteins. Now the company has $125 million from an IPO.
Protein analysis is important for drug research, but Branford, Connecticut-based IsoPlexis contends that traditional proteomics analysis methods do not yield sufficient insight at the single cell level.
“Single cell biology provides deep insights into variations among each individual cell’s behavior, such as underlying disease activity and therapeutic response,” IsoPlexis said in its IPO prospectus. “Traditional bulk proteomic analyses fail to provide these insights as they focus on average cell activity in the aggregate.”
The IsoPlexis platform is based on technology licensed from Yale University. It’s comprised of instruments and consumables that analyze proteins, as well as software that interprets the data produced by these analyses. IsoPlexis initially focused its technology on applications in cancer immunology and cell and gene therapy. The company said it is expanding its capabilities to include infectious diseases, inflammatory conditions, and neurological diseases.
The company said it sold its first system in 2018. Sales have been growing steadily. In 2020, the company reported $10.4 million in revenue, a 38.4% increase over the prior year. As of the end of the second quarter of this year, IsoPlexis said it had placed 150 of its systems with customers across the world, including each of the top 15 global biopharmaceutical companies by revenue. In addition, the company said that nearly half of the comprehensive cancer centers in the U.S. use its technology.
IsoPlexis priced its offering of more than 8.3 million shares at $15 apiece, right at the midpoint of its planned $14 to $16 per share price range. The company’s shares now trade on the Nasdaq under the stock symbol “ISO.” Northpond Ventures is IsoPlexis’s largest shareholder, with a 20% post-IPO stake, according to the prospectus. Spring Mountain Capital owns 15.6%. IsoPlexis said in the filing that it plans to use the IPO proceeds for general corporate purposes.
Cognition Therapeutics gets $45M for Alzheimer’s, wet AMD drug
Approval of Biogen drug Aduhelm revived drug industry interest in amyloid protein as a target. Most of the drugs that address amyloid are antibodies. Cognition Therapeutics’ aims to break up amyloid with small molecules and the biotech has raised $45.2 million to continue clinical development of its lead drug, CT1812.
According to Cognition’s IPO prospectus, the company’s drug is designed to penetrate the blood-brain barrier and bind to SR2, a protein complex that is expressed in the central nervous system, the retina, and peripheral organs. The company says research has shown that protein components of SR2 regulate cell damage response processes. Cognition says that the approach of its drug candidate can displace amyloid oligomers, forms of the protein that have clumped together.
Prior to the IPO, most of Cognition’s financial support for clinical trials has come from the National Institute of Aging. That division of the National Institutes of Health has provided Cognition with $168.4 million in grants and financial support, according to the IPO filing. According to the prospectus, Cognition plans to apply $12.1 of its IPO proceeds million toward planned Phase 2 testing of CT1812 in mild-to-moderate Alzheimer’s. Another $16.2 million is set aside for the planned Phase 2 test of that drug in the wet form of age-related macular degeneration. About $6 million is planned for the preclinical research that could support the advancement of compounds from its library into human testing for neurodegenerative diseases, such as Parkinson’s disease, according to the filing.
Purchase, New York-based Cognition priced its offering of more than 3.7 million shares at $12 apiece, which was the midpoint of the projected $11 to $13 per share price range. Cognition shares now trade on the Nasdaq under the stock symbol “CGTX.”
Graphic from Pyxis Oncology prospectus
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