- AbCellera Biologics, a company that helps pharmaceutical firms find and develop new antibody drugs, announced Thursday that it expects to raise nearly half a billion dollars through an initial public offering.
- Founded in 2012, AbCellera and its suite of technologies have attracted considerable interest from the drugmaking industry. The company counts Pfizer, Merck & Co., Sanofi, GlaxoSmithKline, Novartis, Gilead and many smaller biotechs as partners. Recently, though, AbCellera has been most recognized for its work with Eli Lilly, which led to an authorized treatment for patients infected with the new coronavirus.
- The IPO is expected to close on Dec. 15 and, if all goes as planned, will be the fourth largest biopharma offering in the last few years, according to data compiled by BioPharma Dive. AbCellera is selling just over 24 million shares of common stock at $20 apiece, for gross proceeds of $483 million. Shares should begin trading on the Nasdaq on Friday.
The coronavirus pandemic has made clear the value of being able to quickly develop effective medicines and vaccines, and in turn put a spotlight on biotech. Companies like Moderna and BioNTech, which just a couple years ago were known mostly by industry followers, are now household names.
The amplified interest is perhaps best illustrated by the public markets, where biotech companies have raised a record amount of money this year. More than 65 of them had IPO hauls of at least $50 million, and 55 of those companies are currently trading above their offering price. And on a broader level, biotech stocks generally performed better than those in other sectors for much of 2020.
The trend is made more notable by the fact that public markets haven't always been warm to biotech, which is often considered a riskier investment than others.
AbCellera further elevates a historic time for biotech IPOs. Measured by dollars raised, AbCellera's is the second-biggest public offering of any biotech this year, and the fourth largest since the start of 2018, trailing only Moderna, Royalty Pharma and Genmab.
AbCellera's work revolves around antibody drugs. It uses a technology powered by artificial intelligence to look through millions of immune cells in the hope of finding antibodies that can be engineered into drugs.
Arguably the most well-known of AbCellera's antibodies is bamlanivimab, which the Food and Drug Administration cleared for emergency use last month in people with mild to moderate coronavirus disease who are at high risk for progressing to a severe stage or needing hospitalization. The drug, which AbCellera co-developed with Eli Lilly, is supposed to prevent the new coronavirus from docking onto and invading human cells.
Just weeks after clearing AbCellera and Lilly's drug, the FDA gave a similar emergency approval to a treatment developed by Regeneron that combines two antibodies and was used to treat President Donald Trump after he was infected with the new coronavirus.