Sana Biotechnology raised $587.5 million in an initial public offering, a significant cash haul that the 3-year-old Seattle company will use to continue a quest to treat disease using cutting-edge gene engineering.
The company, led by former executives of Juno Therapeutics, priced 23.5 million shares at $25 per share on Wednesday evening. That exceeded the price target range set earlier in the week when the company said it was looking to price at $23 to 24 per share. When the company first filed to go public last month, it intended to raise up to $150 million.
Obviously, Wall Street liked what they saw in Sana, a money-losing company that has yet to drive any revenue. Dan Primack at Axios noted that Sana is “the largest-ever IPO for a preclinical biotech company.”
While Sana says its gene editing technology will be applicable to a number of diseases, some of its most advanced research is being done around cancer. Sana plans to file new drug applications “for multiple therapies in a spectrum of cancers over the coming years,” noting in the SEC filing that those applications could start as early as 2022.
“Our long-term aspirations are to be able to control or modify any gene in the body, to replace any cell that is damaged or missing, and to markedly improve access to cellular and gene-based medicines,” the company wrote in its IPO prospectus.
At the GeekWire Summit last October, Sana CEO Steve Harr explained how they are essentially turning the body into its own “bioreactor,” which can fend off disease.
“You deliver the tools to enable your body to make its own medicine,” Harr said at the time.
However, gene editing is not accepted by some, a risk factor that Sana points out in its IPO filing.
“Public perception may be influenced by claims that gene editing is unsafe, and products incorporating gene editing may not gain the acceptance of the public or the medical community,” the company wrote in its filing. If those perceptions take root, Sana notes that some government agencies may restrict treatments that utilize gene editing, or medical professionals may not prescribe it.
As GeekWire reported earlier this week, Sana is unique in that the IPO is coming less than three years after it was founded. It typically takes more than eight years to reach that milestone.
Harr holds a 4.9% stake in Sana, while the largest shareholder is Arch Venture Partners at 24.2%. Flagship Pioneer Funds holds 18.8%. The company previously raised more than $700 million in venture capital, making it one of the most heavily-funded Seattle area companies to go public. It’s also the first Washington company to go public in 2021, joining four other companies — Athira Pharma, ZoomInfo, Accolade and Silverback Therapeutics — that performed well in their stock market debuts last year.
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