RESEARCH TRIANGLE PARK, NC – Aerie Pharmaceuticals is scaling up its IPO target, seeking $84.5 million to bankroll the development of its glaucoma treatments, and the company is counting on the burgeoning public market for biotechs to line its pockets.
In a boost over the $57.5 million it filed for in September, Aerie now plans to sell about 5.3 million shares at between $12 and $14 apiece, netting up to $69.5 million if its underwriters come through in the end. Of that cash, Aerie plans to put $34 million to fund Phase III for AR-13324, a topical treatment for open-angle glaucoma and ocular hypertension. The company will spend another $5.5 million on a Phase IIb study of PG324, which pairs AR-13324 with glaucoma drug latanoprost to decrease intraocular pressure.
Like many of the 39 biotechs that have gone public this year, Aerie hasn’t reaped a dime of revenue since it was founded, but the New Jersey company believes it has a winner in AR-13324, a drug it says brings the first novel mechanism of action for treating in-eye pressure in 20 years. If approved, the drug stands to grab a big share of the $4.5 billion U.S. market, which is largely ruled by aging generics, the company said.
The venture-backed company bagged a $30 million round in 2011, funded by Clarus Ventures, Sofinnova and TPG Biotech among others. Aerie burned through most of that to get this far, though, and the company reports having just $2.4 million in cash, lending a bit of immediacy to its Wall Street debut.
Including Aerie, at least 11 biotechs now have pending S-1s and hopes of cashing in on an IPO market that has poured nearly $3 billion into the coffers of drug developers and diagnostics outfits this year. And they keep coming. Four companies churned out registration statements on Friday alone, stretching thin a presumably understaffed SEC in a race to benefit from the most promising biotech bull market in years.
And with each S-1 tossed on the pile comes renewed worry that the industry’s IPO revival is a bubble set to burst as soon as investors remember just how fickle drug development can be. There’s a reason the market cooled in the first place, and it may take just one share-tanking study failure to remind the Street of why biotech bets are so risky. In the meantime, though, $3 billion can buy quite a bit of R&D, and with the venture climate still tepid, it’s no surprise biotechs are queuing up to cash in while they can.