Technology

Seattle-based Icosavax, which is developing COVID-19 vaccines, files for IPO 4 years after launch

Icosavax creates virus-like particles with technology licensed from the University of Washington’s Institute for Protein Design. (Icosavax Photo)

Seattle-based Icosavax has filed to go public via an IPO, just four years after it launched out of the University of Washington.

The company, a spin-out from the UW’s Institute for Protein Design, is developing vaccines to resemble naturally occurring viruses.

Icosavax initiated a phase 1 and 2 clinical trial of a COVID-19 vaccine candidate this June, with support from a $10 million grant from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.

The company’s two COVID-19 vaccine candidates are built from spherical nanoparticles studded with 60 copies of a major viral component, a bit of the spike protein.

Icosavax is also developing shots, geared for older adults, against two viruses that cause pneumonia, respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) and human metapneumovirus (hMPV). There are currently no approved vaccines against these viruses.

Icosavax filed a clinical trial application in Belgium in June for its RSV candidate and plans to initiate trials later this year, according to a company filing with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission.

“We believe that our pipeline and platform can deliver a meaningful impact globally in preventing life-threatening infectious diseases,” said the company in the filing.

The company’s virus-like particle technology was invented at the Institute for Protein Design by Neil King, a scientific co-founder of Icosavax along with IPD head David Baker. Founder and CEO Adam Simpson formerly led another IPD spinout, PvP Biologics, which sold to the pharmaceutical company Takeda.

Since its founding in 2017, Icosavax has raised more than $150 million, including a recent $100 million Series B round.

To date, the institute’s spinouts have raised more than $300 million, according to its website. Since its founding in 2017, Icosavax has raised more than $150 million, including a recent $100 million Series B round.

Investor interest in biotechs has been spurred by the rapid pace of vaccine development during the COVID-19 pandemic, as well as recent advances in genomics, gene editing and cellular therapies. Biotech IPOs reached an all-time high last year, according to Biopharma Dive, and the pace is continuing into 2021. By the end of June this year, 49 biotechs had gone public, collectively raising $8.8 billion.

And across the board, factors such as surging stock market are spurring all-time IPO highs, as discussed in a recent GeekWire Podcast.

Pacific Northwest biotechs that have gone public this year include Sana Biotechnology, which raised $587 million in its February IPO and Impel NeuroPharma, which raised $80 million through its IPO in April. Proteomics company Nautilus Biotechnology went public via a SPAC last month and Absci, developing a drug discovery platform, filed to go public just last week.

The Seattle-area biotech mix also includes other companies involved in COVID-19 studies, such as HDT Bio, which recently initiated clinical trials for an RNA-based nanoparticle vaccine, and Adaptive Biotech, which developed a test to detect prior COVID-19 infection.

With clinical trials only just initiated, Icosavax is also following other companies, such as Nautilus and Sana, that have recently gone public early in their development. Icosavax has no revenue sources and has been operating at a loss. Net losses were $5.3 million in 2019 and $18.9 in 2020.

Investors with 5% or greater ownership are Qiming Venture Partners USA, Adams Street Partners, RA Capital Management, Sanofi Ventures and ND Capital. The company had 22 full-time employees as of June 30.

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