Pliant Therapeutics (PLRX) has filed to raise $86.25 million in an IPO of its common stock, according to an S-1 registration statement, although the final figure may differ.

The firm is a clinical stage biopharma seeking to develop treatments for fibrosis, NASH, cancer and dystrophy conditions.

PLRX has received significant milestone revenue and has a development collaboration with Novartis  (NVS) - Get Report.

South San Francisco-based Pliant was founded to advance a pipeline of drug candidates to treat fibrosis (scarring) conditions, cancer and muscular dystrophies.

Management is headed by CEO and Director Dr. Bernard Coulie, who has been with the firm since February 2016 and was previously co-founder of ActoGenix N.V. and previously held various senior positions at Johnson & Johnson Pharmaceutical Research and Development Europe.

Below is a brief overview video of a brief presentation by Pliant:

Source: Pulmonary Fibrosis Foundation

The company's lead candidate is PLN-74909, a dual selective inhibitor of TGF-Beta.

The drug is currently in Phase 2 trials for idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis and is entering Phase 2 trials for primary sclerosing cholangitis.

However, the firm’s new focus will be on treatments for cancer and muscular dystrophy.

Below is the current status of the company’s drug development pipeline:

Source: S-1

Source: S-1

Investors in the firm have invested at least $238.3 million and include Third Rock Ventures, Eventide Asset Management, Redmile Biopharma, Cowen Healthcare and Novartis (NVS).

According to a 2019 market research report by Grand View Research, the market for idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis treatment was approximately $2.0 billion in 2018 and is expected to grow at a CAGR (Compound Annual Growth Rate) of 12.7% from 2019 to 2026.

Key elements driving this expected growth are a growing prevalence of the disease as a result of an aging global population.

In addition, cigarette smoking is a leading indicator of susceptibility for contracting the disease.

Below is the historical and projected future growth of the U.S. treatment market size through 2026:

Source: Grand View Research

Source: Grand View Research

Major competitive vendors that provide or are developing treatments include:

  • F. Hoffman La-Roche
  • Boehringer Ingelheim
  • Galapagos
  • FibroGen
  • Prometic Life Sciences
  • Bristol-Myers Squibb
  • MediciNova
  • Merck & Co
  • Novartis

Pliant’s recent financial results are a bit atypical of most biopharmas in that the firm has reported substantial revenue in 2019 and Q1 2020 from its lead programs.

Below are the company’s financial results for the past two and ¼ years (Audited PCAOB for full years):

Source: Company registration statement

Source: Company registration statement

As of March 31, 2020, the company had $141.4 million in cash and $10.5 million in total liabilities. (Unaudited, interim)

Pliant intends to raise $86.25 million in gross proceeds from an IPO of its common stock, although the final amount may be different.

No existing shareholders have indicated an interest to purchase shares at the IPO price. It is typical in successful life science IPOs to have some form of existing investor ‘support’ for the IPO, although in recent quarters this element has been appearing less.

Management says it will use the net proceeds from the IPO to fund the clinical development of PLN-74809, preclinical development of its early-stage programs in oncology and muscular dystrophy, and for working capital and other general corporate purposes, including early stage research and development activities.

Management’s presentation of the company roadshow is not available.

Listed bookrunners of the IPO are Citigroup, Cowen, Piper Sandler and Needham & Company..

Commentary

Pliant is seeking funding for its lead programs as well as developing its new focus areas of treatments for cancer and dystrophies.

The firm’s lead candidate for the treatment of idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis is recruiting for its Phase 2a trials and the next milestone will likely be the initial data readout from these early efficacy trials.

It is probable that the data readout for its lead program won’t be until well into 2021.

The market opportunities for its pipeline targets are large and expected to grow at varying but mostly higher rates than normal, due to increasing incidence of disease among aging populations.

Pliant has a development collaboration with Novartis (NVS) for its NASH candidate, a positive scientific signal for a portion of the firm’s technology portfolio.

Citigroup is the lead left underwriter and IPOs led by the firm over the last 12-month period have generated an average return of 25.6% since their IPO. This is a top-tier performance for all major underwriters during the period.

This IPO is a fairly typical biopharma transaction, but with the added positives of strong collaboration revenues to-date and a collaboration relationship with Novartis.

When we learn management’s assumptions on pricing and valuation for the IPO, I’ll provide an opinion.

Expected IPO Pricing Date: To be announced.

(I have no position in any stocks mentioned as of the article date, no plans to initiate any positions within the next 48 hours, and no business relationship with any company whose stock is mentioned in this article. Information provided is for educational purposes only, may be incomplete or out of date, and does not constitute financial, legal, or investment advice.)