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Vancouver’s AbCellera now aiming to raise as much as US$450m in IPO

Biotech had originally been targeting a US$200m raise
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The Vancouver biotech behind a high-profile COVID-19 treatment is upping its own plans to go public.

In a revised filing submitted Monday (December 7) to the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, AbCellera Biologics Inc. revealed it now aims to raise up to $450 million in an upcoming initial public offering.

The company had originally sought to raise US$200 million but the new plans would see AbCellera offer 23 million common shares priced between US$14 and US$17.

That would potentially rake in between US$322 million and $391 million once the company begins trading on the Nasdaq under the ticker ABCL.

Nearly 3.5 million more common shares are being offered to underwriters, which would bring the total raise to US$450 million if shares are sold at US$17 each.

The IPO is being underwritten by Credit Suisse, Stifel Financial Corp., Joh. Berenberg, Gossler & Co. KG, SVB Leerink and BMO Capital Markets.

The Vancouver firm has been prepping for an IPO for much of the fall, tapping prominent figures such as billionaire Peter Thiel, the co-founder and former CEO of PayPal Holdings Inc., for its board of directors; as well as acquiring fellow biotech Trianni Inc. to bolster its expertise in therapeutic antibodies.

AbCellera had US$28 million in revenue in the 12 months ending on September 30 and lays claim to 174 employees around the globe, according to a prospectus released last month.

Its profit during the first nine months of 2020 came in at US$1.9 million.

“While the vast majority of our historical revenue reflects upfront payments from research programs, we believe the long-term value of our business will be driven by downstream milestone and royalty payments,” the prospectus stated.

The company has so far entered into 94 discovery programs, 71 of which include the potential for milestone and royalty payments from its partners.

Last month, Health Canada approved the use of an antibody treatment developed in partnership between AbCellera and American pharmaceutical giant Eli Lilly and Co. (NYSE:LLY).

The treatment, known bamlanivimab, isn’t meant to be administered to the general population but to those already infected with COVID-19.

Lilly released proof-of-concept data in September showing reduced hospitalization rates for patients treated with the antibody therapeutic.

The pharmaceutical company reported the rate of hospitalizations and emergency room visits for those treated with bamlanivimab was 1.7% compared with 6% for those treated with a placebo.

Lilly said this represents a 72% risk reduction, while the treatment was “well-tolerated, with no drug-related serious adverse events reported” among those taking bamlanivimab.

Meanwhile, the U.S. government inked a deal with Lilly in October, paying US$375 million for 300,000 vials of the therapeutic.

And back in May, Ottawa earmarked $175 million for the Vancouver biotech to pursue the development, manufacturing and distribution of therapeutic antibodies.

This came just weeks after AbCellera and Lilly announced a partnership to develop a new drug for the treatment and prevention of the COVID-19 virus, with Lilly tapping the Vancouver biotech’s platform to zero in on antibodies generated in a natural immune response to the novel coronavirus.

The antibody treatment was developed over three months with co-operation from Vaccine Research Center at the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases after the organizations identified it from a blood sample taken from one of the first U.S. patients to recover from the coronavirus.

The first patients were dosed at medical centres in the U.S., including the NYU Grossman School of Medicine and L.A.’s Cedars-Sinai.

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