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The Pulse of the Pharmaceutical Industry

Ex-Genentech Employees’ Denali Breaks 2017 IPO Records, Raises $250 Million

Written by: | | Dated: Friday, December 8th, 2017


By Mark Terry


Denali Therapeuticslaunched in May 2015 by three former Genentech researchers, just went public, raising $250 million with shares priced at $18. It is trading under the ticker DNLI.

The company’s founders were Ryan Watts, former director of Genentech’s Department of Neuroscience, Alexander Schuth, former director and head of Genentech’s Neuroscience Partnering, and Marc Tessier-Lavigne, president of The Rockefeller University. The company focuses on translational research to develop drugs to treat neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, ALS and others.

The company’s short history has been marked by notable financial accomplishments—primarily raising $350 million in venture capital. Otherwise, the company’s approach is to look at targets like RIP1, ApoE and LRRK2.

John Carroll, with Endpoints News, writes, “’This may sound like Drug 101,’ CMO (and Genentech vet) Carole Ho told me last year, but Denali’s success after so many failures will get down to its ability to engage the target, with the right kind of biomarkers in place to track their success. Developing biomarkers early, she adds, is critical. And the biology of these diseases is becoming more clear through the rapid advance of genetics research.”

With the raise, the company’s market valuation is currently $1.7 billion. Not bad for a company that doesn’t have a product for sale and in the case of a biotech, is only just entering the clinic. On Aug. 25, the company announced its first Clinical Trial Application to start a Phase I trial. It has chosen four specific pathways: degenogenes, which cause neurodegenerative disease when mutated; defective intracellular trafficking; glial dysfunction; and axon degeneration.

The company filed a CTA in Europe for a small molecule RIP1 inhibitor that can penetrate the central nervous system. RIP1 regulates inflammatory signaling and can affect glial dysfunction in the brain. Data from the study will hopefully be used to support later studies in ALS and Alzheimer’s disease.

“Mounting genetic evidence points to glial dysfunction as an accelerator of neurodegeneration, and we believe that advancing our RIP1 inhibitor into human clinical testing is a significant step in bringing forward a novel mechanism to combat ALS and Alzheimer’s disease,” Ho said in a statement at the time.

Denali was also investing its previously raised funds into acquiring San Diego-based Incro Pharmaceuticals. It also inked a license deal with Genentech for rights to develop and commercialize LRRK2 inhibitors for Parkinson’s disease, research and licensing agreements with Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis to develop and commercialize antibodies that target ApoE, a risk factor for Alzheimer’s disease, a research collaboration and option deal with UK-based F-Star and a deal with Blaze Bioscience.

The company also noted strategic partnership collaborations with ALS Therapy Development Institute (ALS TDI), Aptuit, Evotec, Massachusetts General Hospital, the Michael J. Fox Foundation PatientsLikeMe and the University of California San Diego School of Medicine.

Carroll writes, “Denali’s arrival on Nasdaq marks the 40th U.S. biotech IPO of the year, outstripping most of the expert guesses that the industry would repeat or just edge out last year’s lean 28 biotech IPOs. And while it’s not a repeat of 2014, when Wall Street rarely failed to embrace any biotech looking to go public, the second half of 2017 has seen a fast clip of new offerings.”


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