Unum Therapeutics is the latest biotechnology company to take the plunge into the public markets, raising $69.2 million that it plans to use to fund more clinical tests of its experimental cancer treatments.
The Cambridge, MA, company priced its initial public stock offering of 5.77 million shares at $12 each, which was on the low end of the $12 to $14 per share range it had previously set. Unum’s shares are expected to begin trading later today on the Nasdaq exchange under the stock symbol “UMRX.”
Unum develops cell therapies, made by engineering immune cells into better cancer fighters. But unlike currently available cell therapies, which are specific to an individual patient because they are made by engineering his or her own cells, Unum is developing a universal source of cancer-fighting T cells intended to treat many patients. The company makes its cell therapies by engineering the T cells with a surface protein that can bind to a wide range of tumor-targeting antibodies. Unum’s therapy is administered with antibodies that bind to the surface of tumors, Unum says in its filing. Those antibodies point the way for the engineered T cells to find the tumors and kill them.
Lead Unum drug ACT087 is in early-stage testing as a treatment for non-Hodgkin lymphoma. When Unum disclosed its IPO plans in early March, the company also revealed that the FDA temporarily halted that Phase 1 study in December following the deaths of two patients. After a review, and a pledge from Unum to change the dose of its drug among other study changes, the FDA lifted the clinical hold in February. Unum is currently enrolling patients who will be given an optimized dose of the drug. The company expects to report preliminary data for the study by the end of the year.
Unum’s research includes a collaboration with Seattle Genetics (NASDAQ: SGEN), a company that specializes in developing antibody drugs for cancer. In 2015, Bothell, WA-based SeaGen paid Unum $25 million up front to develop immunotherapies that use its antibodies. Now that Unum is a publicly traded company, SeaGen is pumping more cash into its partner. According to Unum’s prospectus, SeaGen agreed to buy $5 million worth of Unum shares at the IPO price. Unum plans to use the proceeds, from both the IPO and the stock sale to SeaGen, to complete Phase 1 tests of its lead drug and then bring the therapy into a Phase 2 clinical trial.
The company will also use the proceeds to continue early-stage tests of a second non-Hodgkin lymphoma drug, ACT707. Early data from the ACT707 study are expected by the fourth quarter of this year, according to the prospectus.
Here’s more on Unum’s approach to developing universal cell therapies.