Icosavax is having quite the debut as Washington state’s newest public company. Shares of the Seattle-based biotech firm surged more than 200% on its first day of trading Thursday.
Icosavax raised more than $180 million after pricing shares at $15 before trading began Thursday. Its stock, trading under the ticker ICVX on the NASDAQ, opened at $29/share and reached more than $47 within an hour before dropping back down slightly.
The company, a spin-out from the University of Washington’s Institute for Protein Design, is developing vaccines to resemble naturally occurring viruses.
Its 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 had raised more than $150 million from private investors, including a recent $100 million Series B round.
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 & 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.
“David and the Institute for Protein Design are some of the finest scientists in the U.S. and the world, so I think very highly of the technology and highly of the ability of this technology to create novel and improved vaccines,” said Larry Corey, director emeritus of Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Seattle.
The rapid development of COVID-19 vaccines and the visible role of science in addressing the pandemic has given biotech an edge in the mind of the public and investors. 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.
“The amount of investment that is pouring into biotechnology and the life sciences is incredible,” said Leslie Alexandre, CEO of Life Sciences Washington. “The belief in the power of these technologies to prevent as well as treat some of the most serious conditions on the planet, it’s like people have woken up to that, and investors have really woken up and seen the opportunity.”
Icosavax is one of several Seattle-area companies and research institutions helping study COVID-19 vaccines and related research. It’s also the latest Washington state biotech startup to test the public markets this year. Others include Sana Biotechnology, which raised $587 million in its February IPO; Impel NeuroPharma, which raised $80 million through its IPO in April; proteomics company Nautilus Biotechnology, which went public via a SPAC last month; and Absci, which is developing a drug discovery platform and went public just last week.
GeekWire reporter Charlotte Schubert contributed to this report.