Annovis Bio Inc. (ANVS) shares opened trading at $6 and moved quickly higher in morning trading on the NYSE’s American Stock Exchange before closing at $9.59, up 59.83%.
The three-employee, Berwyn-based biotech company, with no sales or product so far, is the latest Philly-area biotech developer to sell shares to the public (IPO) amid the bull market for gene-and-cell-therapy stocks.
Annovis is developing an Alzheimer’s treatment — dubbed ANVS-401 — that “inhibits the translation of neurotoxic proteins.”
The company also hopes to treat Down syndrome, traumatic brain injury, Parkinson’s disease, frontotemporal dementia, and glaucoma. The treatment has been tested on animals, and the company says it has restored lost brain function. “We discovered the mechanism of action showing that an impaired information system leads to death of a nerve cell. And, by restoring the information highway of the nerve cell, we restore its health and preserve the functions associated,” said Joseph P. Hassett, a spokesman for the firm.
Annovis said the share sale generated $12 million, some of which was used to pay stockbrokers and bankers.
In a pre-IPO filing last year, Annovis said it planned to spend about $4 million of the proceeds on drug trials, and $2 million on "chronic toxicology studies in rats and mice.” Most of the rest would be used “for general and administrative expenses, research and development and to provide sufficient liquidity until we raise additional capital.” The company could also spend some money on acquisitions and noted that it may change plans, since it has “broad discretion” on how to spend the money.
The company, founded in 2008 by Maria Maccecchini as QR Pharma Inc., changed its name last year so it recalls Maccecchini’s earlier company, also called Annovis, which employed more than 100 at labs in Aston and in Scotland. That was before she sold it to Transgenomic Inc. in 2001 for $29.8 million in cash and stock. Transgenomic is now part of Omaha-based Precipio.
Annovis’ principal owners, before the sale, were board chairman Michael Hoffman, a former head of mergers and acquisitions for private equity investor Blackstone, with about 30 percent of the stock; founder Maccecchini, 24 percent; and the state-funded Ben Franklin Technology Partners investment group, which owned 5 percent.
Besides her role as founder and chief executive, Maccecchini has been a member of the Robin Hood Ventures and Mid-Atlantic “angel investor” groups, which focus on life-sciences start-ups.
Annovis is the latest Philly-area biotech developer to sell shares to the public since last fall, when radiation-sickness drug developer Galera Therapeutics (based in Malvern), the T-cell immunotherapy developer Cabaletta Bio of Philadelphia, and the eye-disease biopharma drugmaker Oyster Point Pharma of Princeton all went public. (Shares of Cabaletta hit a new high Wednesday, closing up 13.4 percent at $18.67 after the company announced it had won an FDA orphan-disease designation for one of its medicines, which could speed the product to market.)
Like Annovis, none of those newly public firms recorded sales in the year before they sold shares. They hope to emulate Spark Therapeutics, the Philadelphia-based gene therapy start-up that went public in 2015 and was acquired by Switzerland-based Roche in December for $4.3 billion in December.