As many who follow the IPO market are well aware, pharmaceutical and biotech IPOs have continued to shine throughout 2018. In particular, those deals that are backed by tier one underwriters, have potential lucrative collaboration agreements in place, and are focused on treating cancer and/or serious life-threatening have typically drawn substantial interest. And, as it turns out, GRTS checks off all three of those boxes.
Like ARVN, Gritstone Oncology’s deal was up-sized and priced at the high end of expectations. Specifically, it bumped the share count up to 6.67 mln shares from 6.1 mln, and it priced at $15 versus the $13-$15 expected price range. So, in all, its deal is set to generate just over $100.0 mln in total gross proceeds, about 18% more than anticipated.
The lead underwriters on the deal were Goldman Sachs, Cowen, and Barclays. The stock opened for trading this morning on the Nasdaq at $15.20.
GRTS is an immuno-oncology company developing tumor-specific cancer immunotherapies to fight multiple cancer types. Its goal is to extend the benefits of immunotherapy by leveraging new insights into the immune system's ability to destroy cancer cells, based on the study of patients treated with checkpoint inhibitors such as anti-PD-(L)1 antibodies.
A key hypothesis that has emerged in the field of immuno-oncology is that there are large groups of cancer patients whose tumors have successfully evaded the immune system (so called "cold" tumors) despite having markers that could be recognized by the immune system. Gritstone's approach seeks to generate a therapeutic immune response in these patients by unleashing the natural power of a patient's own immune system to recognize short tumor-specific peptide sequences presented on cancer cells, referred to as tumor-specific neoantigens, or TSNA, in order to destroy tumor cells.
Gritstone's tumor-specific immunotherapy portfolio consists of: 1) its personalized immunotherapy product candidate, GRANITE-001, which is made uniquely for each patient, and 2) its "off-the-shelf" immunotherapy product candidate series, SLATE, which is designed for selected subsets of patients with common tumor neoantigens.
The company's tumor-specific immunotherapy has been tested pre-clinically in non-human primates. Gritstone has demonstrated that its immunotherapy elicits potent and sustained T cell responses against delivered antigens. Of particular note, the company has shown an ability to effectively prime naïve CD8+ T cells to high levels (comparable to those seen in responders to T cell therapies in clinical studies) against antigens that are new to the recipient's immune system (a so-called de novo primed response)—one of the highest immunologic hurdles in activating T cell responses. Because human tumors (and their TSNA) can successfully evade the immune system, overcoming this hurdle by priming a CD8+ T cell response is a key goal.
Gritstone intends to initiate a first-in-human Phase 1/2 clinical trial of GRANITE-001, its first personalized immunotherapy product candidate, in 2H18, evaluating it in the treatment of common solid tumors, including metastatic non-small cell lung cancer and gastroesophageal, bladder and colorectal cancers, in each case in combination with checkpoint inhibitors provided by Gritstone's collaborator, Bristol-Myers Squibb (BMY).