San Diego’s aTyr Pharma, which raised $76 million last week from a group of venture and institutional crossover investors, intends to raise an additional $86.2 million through an IPO, according to a regulatory filing yesterday.
The company was founded in 2005 by two scientists at The Scripps Research Institute, Paul Schimmel and Xiang-Lei Yang, to commercialize their work in a new field of biology, known as physiocrine biology. Including the $76 million Series E round disclosed last week, aTyr has raised a total of roughly $184 million.
Major shareholders (and the percentage of their ownership stake) include Fidelity Investments (13.5 percent), Domain Associates (10.5) Polaris Partners (10.5), Alta Partners (10.3), Cardinal Partners (10.1), Sofinnova Ventures (8,9), and Baker Brothers Life Sciences (8.9).
Physiocrines are naturally occurring proteins that catalyze a key step in protein synthesis. Because physiocrines regulate this process, aTyr says physiocrines help to restore stressed or diseased tissue to a healthier state. The company has so far identified over 300 physiocrines, and maintains that the immune system acts differently in the presence of some genetic mutations that alter protein levels, structure, or function compared to normal tissue.
In its IPO filing, aTyr says, “By leveraging our discovery engine and our knowledge of rare diseases, we aim to build a proprietary pipeline of novel product candidates with the potential to treat severe, rare diseases characterized by immune dysregulation.” Instead of blocking or inhibiting target molecules, however, physiocrines act by revving up or throttling back an immune response rather than turning it off completely.
Capital raised through the IPO would be used chiefly to fund aTyr’s ongoing early stage clinical trial of an experimental compound for treating facioscapulohumeral muscular dystrophy (FSHD), a genetically based degeneration of muscles of the face, shoulder blades, and upper arms.
The biopharmaceutical said it also plans to use some proceeds to advance other research and development activities, and for working capital and other general corporate purposes.
“We believe that Physiocrines have evolved over time to modulate important cellular pathways by interacting with various types of cells, including immune and stem cells,” aTyr says in its IPO filing. “Approximately 100 of these proteins interact with the immune system, which we believe presents a significant therapeutic opportunity to restore affected tissues to a healthier state through natural immuno-modulation mechanisms.”
The company has never been profitable, and aTyr reported annual net losses of $20 million in 2013 and $24.4 million in annual 2014. At the end of December, aTyr said it had an accumulated deficit of $110.2 million.
The company said, “Substantially all of our net losses resulted from costs incurred in connection with our development of and clinical trials for Resolaris [aTyr’s lead drug candidate], our other research and development programs and from general and administrative costs associated with our operations.”
The company plans to list its common stock on The NASDAQ Global Market under the symbol “LIFE.”