all the information, none of the junk | biotech • healthcare • life sciences

Vaccine Developer Genocea Files For IPO, Plans to Raise $75M

Xconomy Boston — 

Genocea Biosciences has spent years fine-tuning a platform that’s supposed to make it quicker and easier to produce a vaccine.

Now, with its two first products in early development, it’ll see if public investors have taken to its progress.

In filings with the SEC, Cambridge, MA-based Genocea said it plans to raise up to $75 million through an IPO. Genocea has yet to set a price to offering or say how many shares it plans to sell, but it’ll trade on the Nasdaq under the ticker symbol “GNCA” once it takes itself public.

Genocea has raised about $81 million in equity financing since its inception. It’s backed by a big-name investor pool that includes Polaris Partners (16.3 percent stake), Lux Ventures (14.8 percent), SR One, the venture arm of GlaxoSmithKline (13 percent), Johnson & Johnson Development Corp. (11.7 percent), and CVF LLC (9.3 percent). Skyline Ventures, Cycad Group, and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation also hold significant pieces of the company.

Citigroup Global Markets, Cowen & Co., Stifel, Nicolaus & Co., and Needham & Co. are underwriting the offering.

Genocea was created in 2006 based on work out of the labs of Harvard University professor Darren Higgins. It’s based on a quick-hit vaccine production platform that is meant to significantly cut down on the time it takes to discover the antigens for a vaccine.

That’s important because antigens are the substances people can form antibodies against. Genocea is also using that platform to develop vaccines that trigger responses both from B cells (the ones that form antibodies) and T cells. All of the approved vaccines to date work only by training B cells to fight viruses.

The company, however, is a ways away from really proving this approach will provide a clinically meaningful benefit for patients. Genocea’s first two products are experimental vaccines it’s developing to treat genital herpes (GEN-003) and pneumococcus (GEN-004).

Genocea reported interim data from its first human clinical trial of GEN-003 in September, and plans to start a Phase II trial in the middle of next year. It expects to report data from a Phase I trial for GEN-004 in mid-2014.

Genocea, which had about $12.1 million in cash on hand as of Sept. 30, plans to use a portion of its IPO to cash to fund the ongoing trials it’s running for those two developmental vaccines. It spent about $34 million on research and development between 2010 and 2012, according to the IPO prospectus.