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Bio Roundup: Duchenne Data, Roche Buys Foundation, IPO Wave & More

Xconomy National — 

Biotech financing is a cyclical thing. Two years ago, the IPO window was unlatched but a number of companies ended up withdrawing their stock offerings. Others that pushed their IPOs through couldn’t sell shares at the price they wanted.

This year, the IPO window is wide open. A total of 93 IPOs have priced as of Thursday, up 36.8 percent compared to the same time last year, according to Renaissance Capital. Healthcare leads all sectors, accounting for more than one-third of the IPOs this year. Seven biotech IPOs priced just this week. As cycles go, it’s hard to know how long this one will last. One observer says the IPO run now might be due in part to a rush to complete offerings ahead of the mid-term elections, when rhetoric attacking high drug prices or other political fallout might make the market less welcoming.

In other biotech news this week, a gene therapy posted encouraging early clinical data; Roche beefed up its cancer portfolio with a huge deal; and an opioid drug maker pulled back from selling the addictive painkillers. Let’s get to those stories and more biotech and pharma headlines from this week.

DOLLARS & DEALS

—Eidos Therapeutics (NASDAQ: EIDX) of San Francisco led the way as six biotech companies priced their IPOs within a 24-hour span. A day later, London-based cancer drug developer Autolus Therapeutics priced its U.S. offering of 8.8 million American depository shares at $17. Also, Basking Ridge, NJ-based electroCore, which has commercialized a medical device to treat migraines, priced its IPO at $15. The robust market for life science IPOs rolled on as each company was able to sell shares at or above its target price.

Roche agreed to pay $137 per share, or $2.4 billion, for the rest of cancer diagnostic firm Foundation Medicine (NASDAQ: FMI) it didn’t already own. The move completes a deal that began with a wide-ranging alliance in 2015. It represents a big bet on the future of targeted cancer medicines and the genetic tests needed to identify the right patients for those drugs.

—Stealth BioTherapeutics, of Boston, closed a $100 million financing to continue tests of a drug for the ‘dry’ form of age-related macular degeneration and various mitochondrial diseases.

—Aiming to establish itself as the leader in hearing loss therapies, Decibel Therapeutics raised $55 million in financing to bring its drug pipeline into clinical testing.

—Emulate, a Boston startup that has developed small chips that can be used in place of animals to test experimental drugs, raised $36 million in financing to develop additional functions for the chips and beef up its commercialization efforts.

—New York startup Kallyope inked its first partnership, with Novo Nordisk, to develop peptide drugs for obesity and diabetes. Terms weren’t disclosed.

DRUG DECISIONS & DATA

—Sarepta Therapeutics (NASDAQ: SRPT) is the first company to provide a glimmer of evidence in human tests that gene therapy might treat Duchenne muscular dystrophy. Extremely early data from Sarepta showed three patients are producing more of a key muscle-protecting protein, and less of an enzyme that indicates muscle damage. Sarepta shares boomed more than 45 percent.

—The FDA cleared Solid Biosciences (NASDAQ: SLDB), also developing a Duchenne gene therapy, to resume an early-stage trial after safety concerns halted the study in March. Solid shares climbed more than 40 percent this week.

—The FDA rejected a plaque psoriasis treatment from Ortho Dermatologics, a subsidiary of Valeant Pharmaceuticals (NYSE: VRX). Valeant said that the FDA’s letter noted no safety issues for the lotion, containing halobetasol propionate and tazarotene (Duobrii), but the agency had questions about how the drug is absorbed and processed by the body.

—An experimental migraine-prevention drug from Teva Pharmaceutical (NYSE: TEVA) failed a late-stage study testing it as a treatment for chronic cluster headaches. The Israel-based drug maker said it would continue tests of the drug, fremanezumab, as a treatment for episodic cluster headaches.

—Shares of Bedford, MA, Anika Therapeutics (NASDAQ: ANKA) sank close to 40 percent after its osteoarthritis drug, Cingal, failed a Phase 3 trial. Here’s more in FierceBiotech.

—CAR-T maker Ziopharm Oncology (NASDAQ: ZIOP) of Boston said that the FDA has delayed the start of a Phase 1 blood-cancer trial for its T-cell treatment that’s meant to be manufactured in the clinic where the patient is treated. Ziopharm did not give details other than the agency requested more manufacturing information.

THIS WEEK IN PHARMA POLICY

—Massachusetts will keep pumping public money into its life-science sector. Last Friday, Gov. Charlie Baker signed the initiative, with up to $623 million on offer, which continues the state backing that began 10 years under Gov. Deval Patrick.

—Israeli-American firm BrainStorm Cell Therapeutics (NASDAQ: BCLI) could be the first to cash in on the new “right-to-try” law that reduces FDA oversight of dying patients’ access to experimental medicines. BrainStorm said last month its ALS treatment NurOwn would be available to people not enrolled in clinical trials. This week its CEO told Bloomberg News of potential plans and a price that could reach hundreds of thousands of dollars.

—In the wake of the “PABNAB” party that took place in Boston during BIO conference week, Addgene executive director Joanne Kamens called for more awareness of sexual harassment and bias against women in the life sciences. The party featured nearly nude dancers with company logos painted on their bodies.

—Cementing its planned retreat from marketing opioid painkillers, Purdue Pharma cut the rest of its sales force this week, Bloomberg reported. In February, the drug maker said it would stop promoting its opioid drugs to doctors and cut its sales staff in half.

PEOPLE ON THE MOVE

—The yet-to-be-named healthcare company formed by Amazon (NASDAQ: AMZN), Berkshire Hathaway, and JPMorgan Chase (NYSE: JPM), now has a CEO: surgeon and writer Atul Gawande. The surprising pick starts July 9.

—Late last Friday, the U.S. government announced that Theranos executives Elizabeth Holmes and Ramesh “Sunny” Balwani have been charged with fraud. Silicon Valley VC Tim Draper, an early Theranos investor, stood by Holmes, saying she was “doing really good work,” and that “every great company gets a major challenge… and some survive those challenges.”

—Former Puma Biotechnology (NASDAQ: PBYI) executive Robert Gadimian was sentenced to more than two years in jail for insider trading.

Ben Fidler and Alex Lash contributed to this report.

Photo by Flickr user Phil Roeder via a Creative Commons license. Photo has been cropped to fix Xconomy publishing system standards.