By Randall Osborne
West Coast Editor
At a time when the market seems suddenly allergic to initial public offerings, Dynavax Technology Corp. registered to enter the field, aiming for $75 million to advance its purified ragweed product and others.
"It's going to cool off for a while," said Jon Alsenas, managing director of ING Barings LLC, of New York, speaking generally of the IPO market.
Berkeley, Calif.-based Dynavax specified neither the number of shares nor the share price in its filing, but said it would use the proceeds to add staff, lease another building and establish manufacturing capabilities.
Dynavax's lead compound, in Phase I/II trials, is AIC, a highly purified form of the main ragweed allergen, Amb a 1, linked to multiple DNA segments. The company's collaborators at Johns Hopkins University presented data from a Phase I safety study in March, showing AIC is significantly less allergenic than the licensed ragweed extract currently used.
A private placement in the fall raised $22.6 million, and Dynavax said it had $27.7 million in cash equivalents and marketable securities as of Sept. 30, with 15.47 million shares of common stock outstanding. (See BioWorld Today, Sept. 27, 2000.)
The company's ImmunoStimulatory Sequences (ISS) technology uses short segments of DNA. One therapy in development links ISS to allergens for treating allergies, another links it to antigens for infectious diseases and cancer, and the third uses ISS alone for inflammatory diseases. Dynavax also has programs in hepatitis B, idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis and rheumatoid arthritis.
Another research effort is developing orally available small molecules in the thiazolopyrimidine, or TZP, class. TZPs inhibit the production of cytokines such as tumor necrosis factor alpha (TNF-alpha) and interleukin-12. Dynavax is targeting such conditions as rheumatoid arthritis and Crohn's disease, and aims to design a lead product candidate that is orally available, giving it an advantage over injectable TNF-alpha blockers.
Dynavax is the one of late entries during what has been a spate of IPOs this year, and few companies remain that are ready to make the move, Alsenas said.
"Just about anybody who was close did one," he told BioWorld Today. "There's simply a question of supply. You can't manufacture something overnight because there's an appetite for IPOs."
Dynavax, which plans to trade under the symbol "DVAX," also said Wednesday three new vice presidents have joined the firm: Robert Lee Coffman, as vice president and chief scientific officer; Stephen F. Tuck, as vice president of biopharmaceutical development; and Gary Van Nest, vice president of preclinical research.