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Clovis Prices Within Range; Adds $130M for Cancer Trials

By Jennifer Boggs

Managing Editor

Clovis Oncology Inc., a small, development-stage firm based in Boulder, Colo., has done what no other biotech has managed this year: priced its initial public offering (IPO) actually within its initial range.

True, the pricing came in at the low end of the $13 to $15 range, but the company just bumped up the number of shares offered – from 9.3 million to 10 million – to hit its proposed $130 million goal, which should provide sufficient cash to get Clovis through the ongoing pivotal trial with lead candidate CO-101 in first-line metastatic pancreatic cancer.

All other biotech IPO pricings this year have come with discounts – some fairly hefty, such as Tranzyme Inc.'s April offering, which priced at $4 per share, one-third of its original $11-to-$13 target. AcelRx Pharmaceuticals Inc. priced its February IPO at an $8 discount to its midpoint range of $12 to $14, and Endocyte Inc. ended up slashing its share price to $6 per share despite originally aiming for $13 to $15. (See BioWorld Today, Feb. 7, 2011, Feb. 14, 2011, and April 5, 2011.)

The last biotech to price within range was Ventrus Biosciences Inc., which in December 2010 priced its modest $20 million IPO at the low end of the $6-to-$7 range. (See BioWorld Today, Dec. 20, 2010.)

Clovis' Nasdaq debut (CLVS) was relatively flat. Despite gaining 39 cents at opening, the firm's shares closed Wednesday at $12.56, down 44 cents. That puts it on par with other IPOs this year. Though a few traded up initially, nearly all have seen their shares slide since pricing. The only exception has been Endocyte; the West Lafayette, Ind.-based firm's stock has climbed more than 60 percent since its debut.

Still, the fact that Clovis was able to reach its fundraising goal without having to substantially increase the share offering is good news for the company, which won't have to return to the market in short order to obtain necessary capital. Several members of the 2010 IPO class already have gone back to investors, such as AVEO Pharmaceuticals Inc. and Anthera Pharmaceuticals Inc., both of which completed PIPE financings about six months after going public. (See BioWorld Today, Sept. 22, 2010, and Nov. 1, 2010.)

And the success of Clovis' offering could bode well for other firms in the IPO queue, particularly for cancer drug company Merrimack Pharmaceuticals Inc., which has a pending S-1 aiming to raise up to $172.5 million, and a few similarities to Clovis. (See BioWorld Today, July 12, 2011.)

For one, both firms' lead drugs are reformulations of chemotherapy drugs for pancreatic cancer – Clovis' CO-101 is a lipid-conjugated form of gemcitabine, while Merrimack's MM-398 is a stable nanotherapeutic encapsulation of irinotecan. CO-101 is in Phase III testing, and MM-398 is slated to start pivotal trials soon.

The firms also have an investment bank in common. J.P. Morgan Securities, one of the underwriters for Clovis' offering, is listed on Merrimack's pending IPO.

J.P. Morgan is on the underwriting slate for another proposed IPO, as well.

ChemoCentryx Inc. filed last month looking to raise $69 million to advance its chemokine-based pipeline. The Mountain View, Calif.-based firm has four products locked up in a collaboration with GlaxoSmithKline plc, including lead candidate Traficet-EN, which is in two Phase III trials in Crohn's disease, and an internal candidate in Phase II testing for Type II diabetes and diabetic nephropathy. (See BioWorld Today, Oct. 18, 2011.)

Other biotechs with filed and pending S-1s are: cancer immunotherapy companies Argos Therapeutics Inc. and TVAX Biomedical Inc.; antibiotic firm Cempra Holdings LLC; specialty pharma Insys Therapeutics Inc.; central nervous system disease-focused Supernus Pharmaceuticals Inc.; and early stage cancer stem cell firm Verastem Inc.

Proceeds from Clovis' offering, which could be boosted by $19.5 million should underwriters exercise their overallotment in full, will add to the $22 million on the company's balance sheet as of Sept. 30. The firm has estimated that about $50 million in proceeds will go to finish up the pivotal LEAP study of CO-101 .

Other funds will support the ongoing Phase II study testing CO-101 as a second-line treatment for pancreatic cancer patients with an absence of hENT1 expression. Ongoing Phase I/II studies are evaluating CO-338, a PARP inhibitor, as a monotherapy and in combination with chemotherapy in solid tumor patients, and the company said it intends to file an investigational new drug application to start studies of CO-1686, an EGFR inhibitor, in non-small-cell lung cancer.

In its SEC filing, Clovis said it believes net proceeds from the IPO and existing cash should carry operations for at least the next year.

Clovis was founded in April 2009 by CEO Patrick Mahaffy and his former management team from Pharmion Corp., which was acquired in 2008 for $2.9 billion by Celgene Corp.

Its investors include Doman Associates, New Enterprise Associates, Versant Ventures, Aberdare Ventures, Abingworth Bioventures, Frazier Healthcare Ventures, Pfizer Inc. and ProQuest Investments.

Joining J.P. Morgan as the underwriter for Clovis' IPO were Credit Suisse Securities LLC and Leerink Swann LLC.