Alector kicks off biotech IPOs after US government shutdown

The 35-day US government shutdown has not just played havoc at government-run agencies – it has had a knock-on effect on the stock market because of cutbacks at the Securities and Exchange Commission financial regulator.

But now that the US government is operating again, albeit temporarily, the financial regulator has been able to start giving the green light to initial public offerings once again.

And the first IPO without a fixed share price since the shutdown ended late last month was from Alector, a biotech that is aiming to find new treatments for dementia.

Alector fell on its trading debut but raised $176 million in the IPO, with shares debuting at $19 each, sliding to $18 and giving a market value of $1.2 billion yesterday.

The IPO heralds an anticipated flurry of biotech IPO activity before February 15, when the temporary spending plan that is keeping the US government open is set to expire.

Gossamer Bio and Harpoon Therapeutics are expected to list in the coming days, hoping to raise $230 million and $81 million respectively.

Stealth Biotherapeutics is also expected to list, to help fund late-stage studies of a drug for indications including mitochondria dysfunction.

Alector is hoping to use immunotherapy to treat neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s – an approach that has produced sometimes stunning results in cancer but is not yet proven in neurology.

The Dementia Discovery Fund, a venture capital fund specialising in this disease area made Alector its first investment five years ago.

The DDF said Alector’s IPO is a “significant milestone” in the quest to bring disease-modifying treatments to patients – a goal that big pharma has so far failed to achieve after a string of trial failures.

Late last week Roche and AC Immune abandoned two phase III trials of their crenezumab Alzheimer’s drugs after an interim analysis indicated the drug would not meet its efficacy endpoint.

Alector has identified 40 immune system targets and has 10 drugs in preclinical research, and is taking two potential drugs into early stage clinical trials.

AL001, initially aimed at treating a genetically-defined sub-population of patients with frontotemporal dementia (FTD), has demonstrated phase I proof-of-mechanism in the central nervous systems of healthy volunteers, with further data expected this year.

A phase I dose escalation study of AL002, in development for the treatment of patients with Alzheimer’s disease, as part of a global strategic partnership with AbbVie, is ongoing.

Two additional product candidates, AL003 for Alzheimer’s disease and AL004 for multiple degenerative disorders, are also expected to enter the clinic this year.

Don't miss your daily pharmaphorum news.
SUBSCRIBE free here.