- Taysha Gene Therapies announced it would sell its first publicly traded shares at $20 apiece in an upsized initial public offering in a year that has featured dozens of lucrative biotech listings. The offering was priced at the top end of its estimated range and should raise $157 million.
- A spinout from the University of Texas-Southwestern, Taysha could have four gene therapies in the clinic by the end of 2021. The company's focus is on rare, mutation-driven neurodegenerative disorders and, prior to its IPO, it received $126 million in venture financing to develop a pipeline of 18 announced programs, including a therapy it bought from Abeona Therapeutics.
- By developing a large arsenal of experimental gene therapies, the company is attempting to build a sustainable company that won't be tied to the market potential of a potentially one-time treatment for a disease with very few affected individuals. The company is led a former executive at AveXis, the gene therapy company bought by Novartis for $8.7 billion, and has several other AveXis executives on its team.
Gene therapies have graduated from the laboratory bench to doctor's offices. The first wave of agents, Roche's Luxturna and Novartis' Zolgensma, are already altering the course of disease in two conditions, respectively an inherited form of blindness and the degenerative, often fatal disease spinal muscular atrophy.
In both cases those treatments were developed by companies that had relatively smaller pipelines, Spark Therapeutics for Luxturna and AveXis for Zolgensma.
Enter Taysha, which is headed by a former AveXis business development vice president, R.A. Session II. The company has highly ambitious hopes to launch a new product every two to three years, with the goal of building a durable business around adapting its technology across many diseases driven by defects in single genes.
The company also plans to build a commercial-scale manufacturing plant from the start, aiming to avoid some of the setbacks that can occur when production moves from facilities built to supply clinical trials.
The linchpin of the company's business is an agreement with UT-Southwestern, under which Taysha funds research and can obtain exclusive rights to experimental therapies for central nervous system disorders, through the end of 2021. Neurodegenerative disorders have proven challenging for some gene therapies because of the difficulties in delivering the viral vectors that carry gene replacements to brain tissue.
In spinning out Taysha, UT-Southwestern took an ownership stake in Taysha, amounting to 2.2 million shares, which is now worth more than $40 million. These ownership stakes have become more common with gene therapies in particular, as big pharma companies have been reluctant to license intellectual property straight out of university laboratories.
Taysha's lead project is called TSHA-101, which seeks to treat a condition called GM2 gangliosidosis, a disorder in which lipid accumulation destroys nerves in the brain and spinal cord. The first clinical trial is scheduled to begin in Canada by the end of 2020.
The company's shares rose following their first trades on the NASDAQ exchange, gaining 20% to close the day at $24.06.
Editor's note: This story was updated to reflect the share price at the close of trading.