Aduro swings for the fences with $119M IPO

Aduro CEO Stephen Isaacs

Aduro Biotech ($ADRO) is picking up in 2015 where it left off last year, riding momentum into an upsized $119 million IPO to fund its breakthrough pancreatic cancer immunotherapy combo CRS-207 and GVAX.

After announcing an $86 million offering last month, the Berkeley, CA, 2014 Fierce 15 honoree outperformed, pricing 7 million shares at $17 each. It set aside 1.1 million more shares for its underwriters, pushing the potential deal value to roughly $130 million and following up two venture rounds last year worth more than $100 million.

It'll put the money to work on its pancreatic cancer combination, which has demonstrated potential despite the cancer's grim 5-year survival rate of just 6%. In July, the combo won the FDA's breakthrough designation and with it a speedy review and access to agency staff throughout the process.

Derived from live Listeria monocytogenes bacteria, CRS-207 is engineered to express the tumor-associated antigen mesothelin and spur the immune system to deploy T cells against cancer. Combined with vaccine GVAX, the two have shown promise against pancreatic cancer.

Now in a Phase IIb trial, Aduro hopes the combo's safety, immune response and efficacy will deliver in an impressive way. It's also being tested in a Phase IIb trial against pancreatic cancer with Bristol-Myers Squibb's ($BMY) Opdivo. Aduro plans to use some of the IPO cash to fund a study of CRS-207 in mesothelioma and ovarian cancer.

The IPO only continues the momentum Aduro picked up in 2014. In addition to the GVAX breakthrough tag, it joined with Johnson & Johnson ($JNJ)--allowing the pharma to use its immunotherapy platform--and inked other deals and licenses that could bring it $1 billion.

GVAX's path hasn't been without detours, though, as it's had several owners and was previously halted in the clinic. Original developer Cell Genesys ran into trouble in 2008 when a trial showed an increased number of deaths among subjects versus another treatment. The next year, Cell Genesys was taken over by Biosante ($BPAX), which sold the jab to Aduro in 2013.

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Special Report: FierceBiotech's 2014 Fierce 15 - Aduro BioTech