Seattle-based Icosavax, which is developing COVID-19 vaccines, files for IPO

Seattle-based Icosavax, which is developing COVID-19 vaccines, files for IPO

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

Seattle-based Icosavax, developing vaccines for COVID-19 and other diseases, 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. Their COVID-19 vaccine candidates, for instance, are built from spherical nanoparticles studded with 60 copies of a major viral component, a bit of the spike protein.

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.

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

Icosavax filed a clinical trial application in Belgium in June for its RSV candidate and plans to initiate trials later this year, according to company filings 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 its filings.

The company’s virus-like particle technology was invented at the Institute for Protein Design by Neil King, a scientific co-founder 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 over $150 million, according to the SEC filings, including a recent $100 million Series B round. Investors with 5% or greater ownership are Qiming Venture Partners USA, Adams Street Partners, RA Capital Management, Sanofi Ventures and ND Capital.

With trials only recently initiated or in development, the company has no revenue sources and has been operating at a loss. Net losses were $5.3 million in 2019 and $18.9 in 2020, with an accumulated deficit of $32.9 million by end of March.

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

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

Pacific Northwest biotechs that have gone public this year include Sana Biotechnology, which raised $587 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.

Other Seattle-area companies involved in COVID-19 studies include HDT Bio, which recently initiated clinical trials for an RNA-based nanoparticle vaccine.

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