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Houston’s Bellicum Pharma Rides T-Cell Therapy Wave to $140M IPO

Xconomy Texas — 

Bellicum Pharmaceuticals has made a little bit of Houston history. In becoming the latest in a new wave of cancer immunotherapy companies to go public, Bellicum has managed another feat—it’s the first Houston biotech to make it to the Nasdaq in nearly 15 years.

Bellicum priced 7.35 million shares Wednesday night at $19 apiece, raising $139.65 million before discounts due to underwriters. At those totals, Bellicum upsized its offering by 1.1 million shares and beat its projected $15 to $17 per share range. Bellicum’s total haul could end up even higher if its underwriters exercise their right to buy another 1,102,500 shares at the IPO price. The company will begin trading on the Nasdaq this morning under the ticker symbol “BLCM.”

The IPO is the first for a Houston life sciences company since Tanox, a maker of an allergic asthma treatment, pulled one off in 2000—the company was acquired by Genentech six years later for about $919 million). This past June, Fort Worth, TX-based ZS Pharma (NASDAQ: ZSPH), a developer of a drug to treat chronic kidney disease, became the first Texas biotech to go public since the $135 million IPO of Adams Respiratory Therapeutics in 2005. (The company, which was headquartered in New Jersey, was started in Fort Worth, and in 2008 sold to London-based Reckitt Bensicker Group for a reported $2.3 billion.)

Bellicum, which was founded 10 years ago, is one of a group of companies developing a particular type of cancer immunotherapy in which a patient’s own T cells are extracted, genetically modified, and then given back to the patient with a new protein that helps them find cancer cells and kill them. The approach is called chimeric antigen receptor therapy, or CAR-T, and it’s generated significant buzz because of very impressive—but early—results treating certain leukemias and lymphomas.

Others in the field include Seattle’s Juno Therapeutics, which is expected to go public later this week; Carl June’s group at the University of Pennsylvania, which is collaborating with Novartis; Summit, NJ-based Celgene (NASDAQ: CELG), via a deal with Cambridge, MA-based gene therapy company Bluebird Bio (NASDAQ: BLUE); and Santa Monica, CA-based Kite Pharma (NASDAQ: KITE). Pfizer also recently cut a deal with Paris-based Cellectis to tap into its CAR-T work. A new startup from Atlas Venture, Unum Therapeutics is also trying its own approach to T-cell therapy for cancer as well.

As more entrants crowd into the field, some differences have emerged, and some potential safety issues as well. Cellectis is developing an “off the shelf” type of CAR-T. Unum is engineering T cells … Next Page »

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  • TBB

    Congratulations to Kevin and David….remember watching you guys drawing on a napkin in the doctor’s lounge.