Mixed bag for IPOs from Genocea, others

The roaring biotech IPO engine sputtered a bit Wednesday as a pair of companies, including Cambridge-based vaccine developer Genocea Biosciences Inc., traded lower in their debut on the Nasdaq stock exchange.

Shares of Genocea, which raised $60 million in an initial public offering that was modest by the standards of other biotechnology companies in recent months, gave up 8.3 percent in their first day of trading, closing down $1 to $11.

Meanwhile, the stock price of Dutch drug developer uniQure NV — which raised $81.9 million Wednesday in its own IPO — tumbled $2.39 a share to $14.61, a decline of more than 14 percent on the Nasdaq.


The results, however, were better for a third biotech company that went public, Auspex Pharmaceuticals Inc. The La Jolla, Calif., developer of drugs to treat orphan diseases, such as Tourette syndrome, registered a 30.5 percent gain Wednesday. Auspex shares rose $3.66 to $15.66 after the company’s offering raised $84 million.

Get Talking Points in your inbox:
An afternoon recap of the day’s most important business news, delivered weekdays.
Thank you for signing up! Sign up for more newsletters here

The trio of IPOs could be seen as a test of whether the sell-off in the broader financial markets since the start of the year would slow the biotech juggernaut that powered scores of offerings in 2013, including nine from Massachusetts. Nationally, six life sciences companies went public in January, raising a total of $439 million, according to Burrill & Co., a financial firm based in San Francisco.

How the latest IPOs fare is being watched closely not only by other biotechs preparing to go public — such as Cambridge-based Eleven Biotherapeutics, which is expected to price shares this week – but also by companies that are already public and plan to raise more money. Two public biotechs, Agenus Inc. of Lexington and Epizyme Inc. of Cambridge, priced follow-on stock offerings Wednesday morning.

But some industry watchers said it was too soon to reach any conclusions about the health of the IPO market for biotechs.

Returns on biopharmaceutical research and development investments have climbed steadily since 2009 and show no signs of falling despite the recent market gyrations, said Michael Ringel, a partner and managing director at Boston Consulting Group who focuses on health care business.


“The mood is incredibly positive,” he said. “Capital is flowing.” The biotech IPOs “have been burning hot. I think it’s too early to suggest that is changing. I can’t predict the overall economy any better than anyone else, but I would expect a pretty good year for IPOs.”

Indeed, in the first Massachusetts biotech IPO this year, shares of Watertown-based Dicerna Pharmaceuticals Inc. vaulted nearly 207 percent in their first day of trading last week in the largest opening day percentage gain of any company since the Chinese search engine went public in 2005.

Genocea priced its public offering of 5.5 million shares at $12 a share Wednesday, the lower end of an earlier specified $12 to $14 range. Genocea said it granted underwriters a 30-day option to buy up to another 825,000 shares at the offering price. Those underwriters include Citigroup Global Markets, Cowen & Co., Stifel, Nicolaus & Co., and Needham & Co.

Genocea executives would not talk about the company’s plans, according to a spokeswoman, who cited a “quiet period” imposed by federal regulators.

The eight-year-old company previously raised more than $80 million from a consortium of investors that includes Polaris Partners of Waltham, the GlaxoSmithKline venture capital fund, and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.


Its first two experimental vaccines are targeting genital herpes and the bacterial infection pneumococcus. Genocea scientists are also working on a research method that will make it faster and easier to develop vaccines.

Robert Weisman can be reached at