- Verve Therapeutics, a high-profile startup developing a more precise form of gene editing, announced Wednesday it raised nearly $270 million in an initial public offering that will rank as one of the largest in biotech this year.
- The company sold just over 14 million shares at $19 apiece through the IPO. Shares will begin trading on the Nasdaq stock exchange on June 17 under the ticker "VERV." The final amount raised could climb higher still, should the banks underwriting the IPO purchase additional shares.
- A wave of more than three dozen emerging biotech companies have cashed in via IPOs this year, collectively raising more than $7 billion. While shares of roughly half are now trading under their IPO price, prospective companies have still found investors ready to commit significant funds. Verve was joined on Wednesday by Lyell Immunopharma, which is raising $425 million through an IPO of its own.
Many biotech companies working on genetic medicines have taken aim at rare inherited diseases with few treatment options. Verve, by contrast, is going after cardiovascular disease, one of the most common and a leading cause of death worldwide.
The company, which is led by well-known cardiologist Sekar Kathiresan, is using a type of gene editing technology that allows it to make changes to a single DNA "base" — a more targeted alteration than was possible with the first generation of CRISPR-based gene editing tools.
Specifically, Verve plans to use base editing to permanently turn off two genes, called PCSK9 and ANGPTL3, that are involved in regulation of cholesterol. An experimental treatment targeting the first is further along, and could enter human testing next year.
Several medicines already exist that target PCSK9 and have shown dramatic reductions in cholesterol levels in clinical testing. But they must be taken for life, a treatment regimen that can be disrupted by changes in insurance, or by patients missing doses.
By turning off the PCSK9 gene, Verve hopes to achieve similar cholesterol lowering with a one-time treatment. "We're ultimately looking to treat and hopefully eradicate heart disease," Kathiresan told BioPhama Dive in a January interview.
In May, research from Verve was published in Nature, showing the company's PCSK9-targeted treatment cut blood levels of PCSK9 by 90%, and LDL cholesterol by 60% in non-human primates. The reductions persisted at least eight months.
The money raised in the company's IPO will significantly expand its resources, adding to $94 million raised via a Series B round in January.
At $267 million, the IPO is the sixth largest this year, according to data from BioPharma Dive. Lyell Immunopharma, a cell therapy developer co-founded by former National Cancer Institute director Rick Klausner, is the third largest, coming in behind only Sana Biotechnology and Recursion Pharmaceuticals.