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Juno Therapeutics Raises $265 Million in IPO

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(A. Kotok)

19 December 2014. Juno Therapeutics, a biotechnology company spun-off from research labs in Seattle and New York, raised some $265 million yesterday in its initial public stock offering. The Seattle enterprise developing cancer therapies that harness the immune system issued 11 million shares of common stock priced at $24.00, and trades on the Nasdaq exchange under the symbol JUNO.

Juno employs two technologies to encourage white blood cells in the immune system, known as T-cells, to target invading cancer cells without damaging healthy tissue. One process genetically modifies T-cells with molecules called chimeric antigen receptors to better identify and attack cancer cells on their own, without invoking immune-system signals that could target non-cancerous cells. The second technique also reprograms T-cells by adding molecules known as human leukocyte antigens that target corresponding proteins in tumors.

The company harvests blood cells from cancer patients and separates their T cells for enrichment with the required genetic sequences in the cells’ DNA, then grown in the lab into dosage quantities for infusion back into the patient. In the body, the engineered T-cells multiply in the presence of target proteins and attack their corresponding tumor cells.

Juno Therapeutics is a joint spin-off from Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Seattle, Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in New York, and Seattle Children’s Research Institute, with founding scientists from all three institutions. The company started in December 2013 and completed two venture rounds gaining a total of $310 million in capital.

The company’s therapies are receiving expedited review from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. In November, FDA granted orphan drug and breakthrough status to Juno’s chimeric antigen receptor candidate code-named JCAR015 as a treatment for acute lymphoblastic leukemia. Orphan drug status provides incentives to advance a therapy’s development and marketing. A breakthrough designation provides more intensive guidance from FDA and eligibility for priority review.

Early clinical trials also show promise for Juno’s products addressing leukemia and other blood-related cancers. The company reported this month patients receiving JCAR015 show high rates of tumor reduction and remission rates of 89 percent. Other early trials testing therapies for acute lymphoblastic leukemia and non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma show evidence of T-cell expansion and persistence, foreshadowing their clinical benefits.

At 11:30 this morning (19 December) Juno’s shares were trading at about $38.00, up some 14 percent from yesterday’s close. The company’s market capitalization is estimated at $2.9 billion.

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Hat tip: Fortune/Term Sheet

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