Biotech firms managed to go public in rocky year

Chinese companies and CRISPR startups stood out in 2016

Ann M. Thayer

The 2016 U.S. market for initial public offerings of stock “will go down as the least active year since the financial crisis and will most likely trail both 2008 and 2009 in terms of proceeds raised,” according to the IPO tracking firm Renaissance Capital.

Biotechs emerged as a bright spot. True, after nearly two years of strong fundraising, the biotech market cooled halfway through 2015 and remained down for 2016. But biotech firms still managed to account for all eight of the IPOs held in the first quarter. Moreover, offerings picked up in subsequent quarters and biotech companies made up about 40% of roughly 110 IPOs anticipated for the year.

Myovant Sciences, formed around just two drug candidates from Takeda Pharmaceutical, raised $218 million. Other notable IPOs of more than $100 million were from the Chinese firms BeiGene and Hutchinson China Meditech. Of the three, only BeiGene is outperforming its offering price—by more than 30%. Share prices have also risen substantially for AveXis, Protagonist Therapeutics, and Reata Pharmaceuticals.

Three start-ups focused on CRISPR/Cas9 gene editing technology—Editas Medicine, Intellia Therapeutics, and Crispr Therapeutics—went public this year. But share prices for all three are near where they started because of an ongoing dispute over CRISPR patent rights.

Notable IPOs in 2016

Investors backed biotech firms pursuing CRISPR and cancer.

COMPANY FUNDS RAISED ($ MILLIONS) FOCUS AREAS
Myovant Sciences 218 Women’s health, cancer
BeiGene 167 Immuno-oncology
Intellia Therapeutics 113 CRISPR/Cas9 gene editing
Hutchinson China Meditech 101 Cancer, inflammation
Editas Medicine 98 CRISPR/Cas9 gene editing
AveXis 98 Gene therapy
Protagonist Therapeutics 90 Peptide therapeutics
NantHealth 83 Personalized health
Kadmon Holdings 67 Cancer, autoimmune
Reata Pharmaceuticals 65 Cell function, inflammation
Selecta Biosciences 61 Immunotherapies
Crispr Therapeutics 56 CRISPR/Cas9 gene editing

IPO = Initial public offering of stock. Source: Company data

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