Benitec IPO swoons amid market rout, but other drug delivery focused players still trying to debut

Australia's RNA interference specialist Benitec Biopharma ($BNTC) chose a bad week to debut on the Nasdaq. The company raised $14 million by offering 1.5 million American depositary shares on Aug. 18, but its stock was down 13% by Friday, a week which saw the Nasdaq Biotechnology Index fall 4.5%.

The offer price of $9.21 per ADS was a 23% discount to the company's share price on the Australian Stock Exchange, but that wasn't enough to overcome a historically bad week for stocks in general. Not so long ago (June 27), the company filed for terms on $65 million offering, but those plans had to be scuppered.

The company touts its approach to RNA interference, known as DNA-directed RNAi, saying it's better than the approach to gene silencing used by Alnylam ($ALNY), Arrowhead Research ($ARWR) and others.

Benitec says the company's patented platform does not involve delivering siRNA into the cell, as is done using the alternative approach. Rather, ddRNAi involves causing in vivo cells to produce siRNA by introducing DNA sequences through the cell wall and into their nuclei.

To achieve that feat, a "range of well-characterized gene therapy vectors, viral and non-viral, like lentivirus, adenovirus, AAV or modified polyethylenimine can be used," the company says on its website.

Apparently, advantages of this approach include reduced toxicity and side effects because ddRNAi requires a small dosage of the DNA construct to achieve genetic change, Benitec says on its website. Late-stage trials of the hepatitis C med are expected to commence in Q2 2017. In addition, Calimmune has a license to use Benitec's ddRNAi platform on its Phase I/II candidate for HIV/AIDs.

Meanwhile two other drug delivery companies braved the storm and filed for IPOs last week. Rockville, MD's, RegenXBio aims to use and out-license its adeno-associated virus (AAV) gene delivery technology to treat rare diseases. It filed with the SEC to raise up to $100 million by debuting on the Nasdaq.

It had revenue of $4 million in the 12 months ended June 30, 2015, Renaissance Capital reports. RegenXBio's delivery tech is being used in 23 candidates, 5 of the company's own (all preclinical) and 18 via partnership, according to the company website.

And Aclaris Therapeutics filed with the SEC to raise up to $86 million via an IPO on the Nasdaq. Its lead candidate is a topical therapy to treat seborrheic keratoses, a non-cancerous skin tumor. The med completed Phase II trials in March.

- here's more from Renaissance Capital
- plus info on RegenXBio's filing
- here's more on Aclaris

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