September started out with news on several life sciences companies about to go public as well as a large acquisition deal of another one of them. This space enjoyed a great number of exits last year and the trend appears on a path to be continued through 2019.

Life science companies saw a lot of action at the beginning of September – we reported on one large all-in cash acquisition of a drug developing company and announcements of four upcoming initial public offerings (IPO).

Biotechnology producer Vertex Pharmaceuticals agreed to buy US-based diabetes treatment developer Semma Therapeutics in a $950m acquisition deal, thus enabling pharmaceutical companies SinoPharm and Novartis to exit. Semma is working on treatments for diabetes that will utilise billions of beta cells grown from stem cells in order to produce insulin.

US-based autoimmune disease therapy Viela Bio, spun off by pharmaceutical firm AstraZeneca, filed to raise up to $150m in an IPO.  Launched in 2018, Viela is working on drugs to treat autoimmune diseases and severe inflammatory diseases. Its therapies will target the disorders’ molecular pathogenesis in order to more precisely treat each patient.

US-based infectious disease therapy developer Vir Biotechnology filed for a $100m IPO, which would enable telecoms group SoftBank’s Vision Fund to exit. Vir is working on treatments for infectious diseases, having created four drug development platforms covering T cells, antibodies, innate immunity and small interfering ribonucleic acid (RNA). Its candidates include potential treatments for hepatitis B virus (HBV), influenza, HIV and tuberculosis.

Shanghai Henlius Biotech, a China-based biotechnology developer backed by conglomerate Fosun, filed to go public and to raise up to $477m in an IPO in Hong Kong, intending to issue 64.7 million shares priced at HK$49.60 to HK$57.80 ($6.30 to $7.40). Founded in 2010, Henlius develops both proprietary drugs and biosimilars aimed at oncology and autoimmune conditions.

Switzerland-based cancer therapy developer ADC Therapeutics filed for a $150m IPO on the New York Stock Exchange which would give an exit to pharmaceutical company AstraZeneca. Spun off from AstraZeneca subsidiary Spirogen in 2011, ADC is developing antibody drug conjugates that will target haematological malignancies and solid tumours.

In recent years, we have seen plenty of exits from emerging businesses in the life science sector, as the GCV Analytics bar chart shows. The number of such transactions reached a record (62) by the end of 2018, worth an estimated total of $12.69bn, after it had decreased in previous years from 53 in 2014 down to 35 in 2017. By the beginning of September this year, we have already tracked 47 such transactions, which appears to suggest that the upward trend in such exits – both acquisitions and IPOs – is still sustained.