The past year will go down as the biggest for biotech IPOs since 2000 and a good time for the firms who braved frosty conditions to go public in 2011 and 2012. Vaccine developer Genocea Biosciences is now set to be among the first to test conditions in 2014 having filed its S-1 just before the holiday season.
Genocea plans to raise $75 million in the IPO to fund clinical development and manufacturing of its two leading candidates, vaccines against herpes simplex virus-2 (HSV-2) and pneumococcus. A Phase II trial of the HSV-2 vaccine is due to begin next year, by which time Genocea should also be nearing completion of its Phase I pneumococcus study. Genocea faces competition in both sectors, with the pneumococcal jab going up against Pfizer's ($PFE) behemoth Prevnar 13 and Sanofi ($SNY) developing a herpes vaccine.
The biotech's willingness to take on these Big Pharma companies is underpinned by its belief in its T cell vaccine technology. In pneumococcus, the approach is enabling Genocea to aim for protection against all strains of the bacteria, instead of just the 13 covered by the current version of Prevnar. Genocea--a 2008 Fierce 15 company--has built a pipeline of two clinical candidates and several preclinical contenders using the technology.
Investors including the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and Johnson & Johnson Development Corp have backed Genocea and its T cell technology with $81 million in equity financing. The company is now trying to raise a similar amount on the public markets, which put around $3 billion into newly-public biotechs in 2013. While sentiment soured slightly towards the end of the year, 2013 will still be remembered as a bumper year for IPOs. Genocea is now hoping investor goodwill towards biotech continues into 2014.
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