Black Diamond becomes first biotech to announce IPO in 2020

Black Diamond Therapeutics has become the first biotech to announce an IPO in 2020, asking investors to fund a clinical trial to test its new approach to tackling cancer.

It’s early days yet but this year is likely to have a better start in terms of biotech IPOs than 2019, when companies were unable to launch on the stock market because the US financial regulator was almost out of action amid the US government shutdown.

With that matter seemingly resolved this time round market watchers will get a better view over the size of the stock market’s appetite for biotech newcomers from the outset for 2020.

Cancer is an ever-popular choice for investors, and Black Diamond is hoping to catch their attention with an approach that targets undrugged mutations in cancers for which there are limited treatment options.

It’s one of several companies that are taking a “tumour agnostic” approach to cancer, by using population-based genetic sequencing data to identify mutations that are driving the disease in different tumour types.

By grouping these mutations into families the company aims to develop small molecule drugs that target the mutations, known as oncogenes, irrespective of where they occur in the body.

Run by David Epstein and Elizabeth Buck, who helped to develop Roche’s lung cancer drug Tarceva (erlotinib), the biotech raised $85 million from a Series C financing round led by Boxer Capital of the Tavistock Group.

The drugs the company is developing are allosteric – meaning they target the cancer mutations by using targets other than the main binding site.

Since its launch as a private venture in 2018 Black Diamond has raised almost $200 million already and is planning a phase 1/2 clinical trial of its lead drug, BDTX-189, which targets HER2 and EGFR mutations.

Most of the IPO money will go towards the BDTX-189 trial, although some of the other cash is earmarked for preclinical development of drugs to treat glioblastoma.

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