- Centessa Pharmaceuticals, an unusual company built from the merger of 10 smaller drugmakers, has raised $330 million in one of the largest initial public offerings by a biotech this year.
- The IPO's pricing, announced by Centessa late on Thursday, follows just three months after the biotech's public launch and adds considerably to the $250 million in venture funding the company already received. Formed by U.K. venture investor Medicxi, Centessa is also backed by General Atlantic, Vida Ventures, Janus Henderson Investors and a dozen other firms.
- The fundraising is the third largest biotech IPO in 2021, after Sana Biotechnology's $588 million listing and Recursion Pharmaceuticals' $436 million offering. So far, 36 biotech companies have gone public this year as money has flowed into the sector. But 23 are now trading below their offering price in a potential sign of retrenchment.
Centessa has raised more than half a billion dollars to execute on an unorthodox approach to pharmaceutical research and development.
The new company's architect, Medicxi, has long preached a more efficient, "asset-centric" approach to developing new medicines, often founding companies around just one or two experimental compounds. The venture investor is trying a new tack with Centessa, created from 10 biotechs previously funded by Medicxi.
The 10 companies merged to create Centessa include ApcinteX, Capella Bioscience, Janpix, Lockbody, Morphogen-IX, Orexia Therapeutics, Palladio Biosciences, PearlRiver Bio, Pega-One and Z Factor. The idea is a hub-and-spoke model that centralizes resources but allows the individual companies to retain autonomy and focus on their specific R&D goals.
"The playbook of 'asset centricity' has worked well for single-asset biotech companies," Centessa CEO Saurabh Saha told BioPharma Dive in February. "We asked ourselves the question, 'Can we scale this company to that of a larger pharma company?'"
Altogether, the 10 companies have 15 programs in development, four of which are in clinical testing. Their research spans a wide range of diseases in hematology, immunology, inflammation and neuroscience.
The young company has already encountered a major challenge in leadership, however. Moncef Slaoui, the former leader of the U.S. government's coronavirus vaccine program and a long-time GlaxoSmithKline executive, was initially picked as Centessa's chief scientific officer and adviser, bringing with him significant industry clout.
But in March, Slaoui was fired by GSK from his position on the board of directors of a company majority owned by the British drugmaker. GSK said it had substantiated allegations of sexual harassment and inappropriate conduct by Slaoui when he was directly employed by GSK.
Shares in Centessa, priced at $20 each, will begin trading Friday on the Nasdaq Global Select Market under the ticker CNTA.