- Acrivon Therapeutics, a startup developing precision drugs for cancer, has filed to go public just one year after emerging from stealth, according to regulatory filings.
- The startup plans to use the proceeds to fund trials of a drug, prexasertib, that was discovered by Array BioPharma but later licensed and then shelved by Eli Lilly. Acrivon obtained rights to the drug in 2021 and is testing it in Phase 2 studies in ovarian, endometrial and bladder cancers.
- IPO research firm Renaissance Capital estimated the offering could raise up to $100 million, which, though only a preliminary estimate, would be a sizable IPO in a down year for new biotech stock offerings. To date, the startup has raised $120 million in private funding from investors including Chione Ltd. and RA Capital Management.
Not long ago, lucrative initial public offerings seemed within easy reach for biotechnology startups following their second round of private financing.
By this time last year, more than 90 biotechs had priced IPOs, according to BioPharma Dive data. But in 2022, the pace of new offerings has slowed considerably, with less than two dozen biotechs having IPO’d to date. Others, seeing weak demand, have opted for more creative alternatives.
Based in Watertown, Mass., Acrivon is the latest to test the conventional path to Wall Street. And unlike a majority of the biotechs that debuted on the Nasdaq in 2020 and 2021, Acrivon already has a drug candidate deep in clinical testing.
The drug, prexasertib — a small molecule targeting a pair of enzymes called CHK1 and CHK2 — has a long history. It was first discovered by Array BioPharma and acquired by Lilly in the 2000s, eventually becoming one of the Indianapolis pharmaceutical giant’s top cancer drug prospects. Lilly tested prexasertib in more than a dozen clinical trials, but ultimately scrapped it in 2019 after lackluster results.
Yet Acrivon sees a chance to revitalize the drug. Using a protein-based diagnostic test it’s developing with Akoya Biosciences, Acrivon claims it can better identify patients who will respond to treatment with prexasertib.
Acrivon has received Food and Drug Administration clearance to start Phase 2 trials involving patients with multiple tumor types, with results expected in the second half of 2023.
Lilly could receive up to $168 million in milestone payments, as well as royalties, if prexasertib is successful in clinical testing. It also has the right to negotiate first with Acrivon to reacquire the drug, filings show.
Also in Acrivon’s research pipeline are two drugs in preclinical studies.
Acrivon raised $100 million in a Series B round in Nov. 2021 led by Wellington Management and Surveyor Capital, an arm of Citadel. Chione Ltd., based in Cyprus, is Acrivon’s largest institutional investor with a 27% stake. RA Capital Management holds the next largest stake at 11%.
Just four biotechs have priced new stock offerings since mid-May. Only one of them, Third Harmonic Bio, raised more than $100 million, though gene editing company Prime Medicine could bring in a similar total this week.
Half of the newly public biotechs in 2022 have raised less than $40 million, according to BioPharma Dive data.
Correction: A previous version of this story misidentified Acrivon CEO’s Peter Blume-Jensen’s prior employment.