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Engineered Cell Therapy Company Issues $588M IPO

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(Julien Gong Min, Flickr)

4 Feb. 2021. A company developing regenerative therapies with engineered stem cells for cancer and other diseases is raising $587.5 million in its initial public offering or IPO. Sana Biotechnology Inc., a two year-old company in Seattle, issued 23.5 million shares at $25.00 per share, trading on the Nasdaq exchange under the symbol SANA.

Sana Biotechnology develops regenerative medicine therapies with stem cells designed and produced in advance, then dispensed like prescription drugs today. Induced pluripotent stem cells, also known as adult stem cells, are derived from existing human tissue and not from embryos. Adult stem cells today are genetically altered and cultured in the lab, then induced to differentiate, or transform, into various types of cells and tissue that can replace damaged counterparts in the body. With most current technologies, however, stem cells must be taken from and newly transformed cells returned to the same patient, which makes the customized process labor-intensive and expensive.

The company’s technology, based on research in the labs of Sana Biotech’s scientific founders and Harvard cell biologists Chad Cowan and Richard Mulligan, aims to produce therapeutic stem cells that work for anyone.  For this purpose, Sana Biotech is designing stem cells that do not induce a damaging response from the recipient’s immune system. The company is genetically altering stem cells with Crispr-edited genes and other methods to reduce the production of immune-system proteins that can cause those adverse reactions.

Wide range of disease targets

The company’s basic stem or other progenitor cells can then be further altered and cultured to transform into off-the-shelf replacement cells in the body, such as for heart muscle, blood vessels, liver, and beta cells in the pancreas that produce insulin. In addition, Sana Biotech is developing a manufacturing process for large-scale and consistent production of off-the-shelf cell therapies addressing a broad range of diseases, both inherited and chronic.

Sana Biotech’s pipeline has treatments in development for blood-related cancers, including non-Hodgkin lymphoma, acute lymphoblastic leukemia, chronic lymphocytic leukemia, and multiple myeloma. In addition, the company is developing therapies for inherited disorders of the blood and liver, type 1 diabetes, heart failure, Huntington’s disease, and other central nervous system diseases. All company’s programs are still in preclinical stages.

Sana Biotechnology is one of the industry’s most well-financed companies. As reported by Science & Enterprise, the company raised $700 million in its first venture round in June 2020, and according to Dan Primack at Axios, $165 million before that. Primack adds that Sana Biotech’s IPO is the largest ever for a biotechnology company with its pipeline still in preclinical stage.

Shares in Sana Biotech opened on the Nasdaq exchange today at $35.00, $10.00 above the IPO price, in its first trading day. The share price rose to more than $38.00 at mid-day, then declined to $35.10 by the 4:00 pm closing bell, an increase of 1 percent for the day, but 40 percent over the IPO price. In comparison, the overall Nasdaq Composite Index rose 1.2 percent for the day.

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