While investors are eagerly awaiting Lyft's IPO tomorrow, another
name is making its IPO debut today: Precision BioSciences (DTIL). Last night,
it priced its 7.9 mln share IPO at $16 per share, the midpoint of the expected
range of $15-17. DTIL is a genome editing company. It leverages its genome
editing platform, called ARCUS, in the development of drugs that treat human
diseases and it's used to create healthy and sustainable food and agricultural
Precision BioSciences is developing drug candidates in three areas where its technology has the potential to overcome the limitations of other genome editing technologies: allogeneic CAR T immunotherapy, in vivo gene correction, and food.
The FDA recently accepted DTIL's investigational new drug, or IND, application for its first gene-edited allogeneic CAR T cell candidate targeting CD19 and DTIL expects to commence a Phase 1/2a trial in patients with acute lymphoblastic leukemia and non-hodgkin lymphoma in 1H19. DTIL believes this trial will be the first clinical investigation of an allogeneic CAR T therapy for non-hodgkin lymphoma. DTIL believes its proprietary, one-step engineering process for producing allogeneic CAR T cells at large scale will enable DTIL to overcome the fundamental challenges of manufacturing that have limited the CAR T field to date.
Genome editing is a biotechnology process that removes, inserts or repairs a portion of DNA at a specific location in a cell's genome. DTIL's proprietary genome editing platform, ARCUS, uses sequence-specific DNA-cutting enzymes, or nucleases, that are designed to perform modifications in the DNA of living cells and organisms.
ARCUS is not a CRISPR/Cas9 technology. ARCUS is a collection of protein engineering methods that DTIL developed specifically to re-program the DNA recognition properties of the natural genome editing enzyme, I-CreI. In nature, I-CreI is an endonuclease found in the genome of the algae Chlamydomonas reinhardtii, which evolved for the purpose of carrying out a complex gene insertion edit. To apply I-CreI to genome editing in other cells or organisms, DTIL must modify it to recognize and cut a different DNA sequence for each new application DTIL pursues.
Since the I-CreI endonuclease evolved to recognize its target sequence in the algae genome with a high degree of selectivity, it was necessary for DTIL to develop sophisticated protein engineering methods to re-engineer I-CreI to bind and cut a different DNA sequence. Using ARCUS, DTIL creates customized endonucleases for particular applications. DTIL calls these custom endonucleases "ARCUS nucleases."
DTIL believes ARCUS has a number of benefits. First is high specificity. Complex genome editing applications, especially those involving the human body, require a high level of endonuclease specificity to limit the likelihood that the endonuclease will recognize and edit any genetic sequence other than its intended target. Second is high efficiency. In preclinical studies, ARCUS has shown the ability to achieve a high level of on-target editing while rarely cutting off-target.
A third benefit its easy delivery. ARCUS is very small relative to other genome editing endonucleases. As such, it should be compatible with many different delivery mechanisms. Fourth is the type of cut. The three prime, or 3', overhangs created when ARCUS cuts DNA have been observed to promote DNA repair through a mechanism called "homology directed repair," or HDR. 3' overhangs are stretches of unpaired nucleotides in the end of a DNA molecule. The company believes this adds significant versatility to ARCUS and will enable DTIL to insert or repair DNA as well as delete DNA.
There are lots of gene editing and gene therapy stocks more generally. Names of note include Editas Medicine EDIT) and CRISPR Therapeutics (CRSP), both of which use the CRISPR/Cas9 platform. Likely helping the stock today, DTIL has some quality lead underwriters on this deal: led by JP Morgan, Goldman, Jefferies, Barclays. Biotech IPOs, in particular, benefit from such Tier-one firms as they give the company more credibility.
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