Regenerative Medicine Deal Review: December

Author: Mark Curtis, 01/07/15

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Welcome to your deal review for the month of December. Juno Therapeutics made its leap into the public realm with the largest biotech initial public offering (IPO) in 2014. bluebird Bio announced pricing of a common offering to raise over $200M. Read on to find out more.

Earlier this year, we saw privately held Adaptimmune raise $104M in a Series A venture capital financing to put its cell-based immunotherapy platform deep into clinical development. The immunotherapy industry continued to turn heads last month with Juno Therapeutics’ (JUNO) $265M IPO. JUNO issued 12.7M shares at $24 and provided underwriters an option to purchase another 1.7M shares, which was exercised, pushing total proceeds of the deal to over $300M.

JUNO therapeutics has been developing CAR-T cells and T cell receptors (TCRs) targeted to various cancer cell types. As a spinout of the Fred Hutchison Cancer Research Centre, the company boasts world-class management and scientific and clinical advisory. This, along with a cutting-edge platform, has allowed the company to raise over $600M in private and public funds in the last 12 months. The company’s last raise was a Series B financing of $134M that closed in August of 2014.

Four of JUNO’s first clinical candidates target CD19, a cell surface marker found on white blood cells, and up-regulated in a number of different B cell malignancies, including acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL) and diffuse large B cell lymphoma. Its fifth clinical candidate, a TCR, targets the intracellular protein WT-1, which is over-expressed in a number of different cancers, including acute myeloid leukemia, non-small cell lung cancer, and prostate, ovarian, and colorectal cancers. Other targets, in pre-clinical development, include CD171, IL-12, and ROR-1.

bluebird Bio (BLUE) is also out in the markets to raise capital, and priced a deal that would see the company issue another 2.65M shares at a price of $85 to raise gross proceeds of $211M. Upon closing, the company plans to use the proceeds to further develop its programs targeting childhood cerebral adrenoleukodystrophy, beta thalassemia, and sickle cell disease. BLUE treated its first patient with sickle cell disease in October 2014.

The market’s valuation of JUNO goes to show just how much confidence there is out there in the investment community that cell-based immunotherapy is the way of the future in cancer treatment. JUNO originally priced a range of $15 – $18 per share for its IPO. This was subsequently revised to $21 – $23. The company eventually settled on $24 per share on Thursday, December 18th. JUNO opened up 63% at $39 the next morning to raise the market capitalization of the company to nearly $3B. Since then the company has traded as high as $56 per share, for a market capitalization greater than $4B. This is a company that was incorporated one year ago!

To put this valuation into context, I’ll make a comparison to another immuno-oncology company at a similar stage of development, targeting similar indications, with the same number of clinical assets, but working on a different paradigm. OncoMed (OMED), which has five antibody candidates at the Phase 1b/2 stage being investigated for targeting cancer stem cells in hematological malignancies, last traded at a market capitalization of $675M, and this is with three solid partnerships (Bayer, GSK, Celgene).

It appears that JUNO will be having a happy new year.

All dollar values quoted in this blog are USD.

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Mark Curtis

Mark Curtis

Mark is a Business Development Analyst at the Centre for Commercialization of Regenerative Medicine (CCRM), where he collaborates with the team to help evaluate the commercial potential of regenerative medicine and cell therapy technologies. He began his career at Princess Margaret Hospital studying cellular reprogramming of human skin cells. Following this project, he left the laboratory and took on a role with Bloom Burton & Co., a healthcare-focused investment dealer. While there he supported the advisory team in carrying out scientific diligence on early-stage biotechnology companies. Prior to joining CCRM he was a consultant to Stem Cell Therapeutics, a Toronto-based biotechnology company focused on developing therapeutics targeting cancer stem cells. Mark received a Master’s degree from the University of New South Wales in Sydney, where he studied the directed differentiation of embryonic stem cells, and a Bachelor’s degree in Biology, from Queen’s University. Follow Mark on Twitter @markallencurtis
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