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Biotech Uptick Moves into March

Three more firms line up for initial public offerings

by Rick Mullin
March 8, 2004 | A version of this story appeared in Volume 82, Issue 10

Emerging drug companies seek an infusion of investment dollars.
Emerging drug companies seek an infusion of investment dollars.

February went out like a lion in biotechnology as filings for initial public offerings (IPOs) by three companies capped a flurry of activity in the sector. Acadia Pharmaceuticals, Alnylam Pharmaceuticals, and Ark Therapeutics announced filings in the wake of strong openings on Wall Street last month for GTx, Renovis, Corgentech, and DynaVax Technologies.

Acadia, a chemical-genomics specialist, filed with the Securities & Exchange Commission for an IPO valued at approximately $86.3 million. Alnylam, which is working to develop drugs based on RNA interference, filed with SEC for an IPO also valued at $86.3 million.

Ark's filing, to be listing on the London stock market, is the first significant biotech IPO in the U.K. in three years. Industry sources say Ark, which has a therapy for wound healing approved in the U.K. and three drug candidates in late-stage trials, may lead the kind of resurgence in the U.K. that is already under way in the U.S. Ark's IPO is valued at about $67 million.

Industry watchers noted a rebound in biotech investment last summer, and many predicted that a window for IPOs would open in the sector this year. Positive news on clinical trial results for potential biotech blockbusters, such as Genentech's colorectal cancer drug Avastin (bevacizumab), helped fuel renewed enthusiasm last year. FDA approved Avastin and ImClone's colorectal therapy, Erbitux (cetuximab), last month.

February's IPOs indicate that the stock market has an appetite for biotech, according to G. Steven Burrill, CEO of life sciences merchant bank Burrill & Co. GTx, Renovis, Corgentech, and DynaVax Technologies hit the market netting $78 million, $66 million, $96 million, and $45 million, respectively. Renovis, Corgentech, and DynaVax were all up 20% or more in their first day of trading and have since held their ground, according to Burrill.


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