Legend Biotech Closes Initial Public Offering Raising Big Money
By Ruchi Jhonsa, Ph.D.
The Nanjing-based biotech company raised approximately $487.3 million in its public debut, making it one of the biggest life science IPOs of the year.
Legend Biotech is a clinical-stage CAR-T immune-oncology biotech that spun out of Hong Kong-listed GenScript Biotech. On June 5th, it announced its initial public offering of 18,425,000 American depositary shares (ADS) on Nasdaq. Each ADS represents two ordinary shares and were offered to the public for $23.00. Legend has granted an additional 2,763,000 shares for the underwriters for a period of 30 days. On the day of the launch, Legend expected to raise approximately $423.8 million.
Immediately after the announcement, the company began trading on the Nasdaq Global Select Market under the stock ticker symbol LEGN. Today (June 9th), it announced the closing of its initial public offering of 21,188,750 ADSs for total gross proceeds of approximately $487.3 million. On the day of launch, its shares soared up by 60% to $39.49 before settling at a stock price of $37 apiece. The value was $37.50 when trading closed at 4 pm this evening.
New Beginnings, Old Friends
Legend is a Chinese subsidiary of GenScript, a New Jersey-based pharmaceutical service provider formed in 2014. It is the original developer of CAR-T cell therapy, LCAR0B38M, for multiple myeloma that works by targeting the cell-surface antigen BCMA. In 2017, Legend’s CAR-T therapy was licensed by Johnson & Johnson’s biotech subsidiary, Jannsen, for a mammoth $350 million and is currently being developed under the name JNJ-4528.
Even though IPO means that Legend will be sailing on its own, the partner company GenScript will keep a close tie with the company. Adding to Legend’s capital, the biotech’s parent company purchased more than 1 million shares at the IPO price, amounting to $24 million. Counting the private sales of shares and the IPO, GenScript now owns 66.1 percent of Legend.
Legend also announced three new appointments comprising of Dr. Corazon (Corsee) Dating Sanders, Dr. Darren Ji, and Mr. Philip Yau to the Board of Directors.
”We are thrilled to welcome Corsee, Darren, and Philip to our Board of Directors at this exciting and important new phase of evolution for Legend Biotech,” stated Dr. Yuan Xu, Board Member and Chief Executive Officer of Legend Biotech. “The addition of these directors complements our Board’s skills and experiences, and we are confident they will provide valuable perspectives. We look forward to their engagement and assistance in guiding our strategies and objectives to bring innovative and impactful cell therapies toward potential registration and commercialization.”
Phase I CARTITUDE Trial
Interest in the Legend soared following the ASCO 2020 virtual meeting where the company presented data from the Phase 1 CARTITUDE-1 study for its lead compound, JNJ-4528, experimental cell therapy for the blood cancer. Interestingly, the study showed that 25 of 29 (86%) patients who were heavily pretreated with a median five prior lines of therapy had a complete remission meaning that there was no sign of cancer visible in these patients, and 97% showed a partial response.
Moreover, the drug showed a remarkable safety profile wherein, despite the majority of patients experiencing cytokine release syndrome, only 7% and 3% of them showed serious or worse events, respectively. A Phase 2 test of JNJ-4528 is already undergoing. Based on the results from this study and earlier tests, the company plans to file with the USFDA and EU regulators in the second half of this year and with Japanese regulators in the following year.
The company plans to spend 37-43% (160$-185$ million) of the raised capital towards clinical development of its multiple myeloma drug, 14-17%($60-$75 million) in setting up manufacturing facilities and 3.5-4% ($15-$20 million) for the commercial launch of the drug.
Competition Next Door
While Janssen was presenting exciting data from its Phase 1 CARTITUDE-1 study, BMS was simultaneously rocking the stage with results from its BCMA targeting CAR-T cell therapy, ide-cel codeveloped with bluebird bio. Ide-cel reduced tumor growth in 73% and cleared tumors in 33% of patients with multiple myeloma who had relapsed or didn’t respond to the first-line of treatment.
Moreover, treatment stopped cancer from growing back for a median of 8.8 months and extended the lifespan of patients by a median of 19.4 months. Similar to Legend’s drug, ide-cel has a remarkable safety profile. Although most patients suffered cytokine release syndrome (CRS), it was mostly mild, and only 6% of patients needed aggressive treatment for CRS. The drug was filed for FDA review in March but was rejected due to manufacturing concerns. The pair is planning to refile by July.
Editor: Rajaneesh K. Gopinath, Ph.D.
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