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Akouos raises $213m in its IPO, gains nearly 30 percent on first day of trading

The Boston biotech is aiming to develop the first gene therapy for hearing loss.

Manny Simons, CEO of Akouos, playing piano at his home. Akouos is the latest biotech to see higher than expected demand in the public markets despite the pandemic-related recession.
Manny Simons, CEO of Akouos, playing piano at his home. Akouos is the latest biotech to see higher than expected demand in the public markets despite the pandemic-related recession.JIM DAVIS/GLOBE STAFF

A Boston biotech trying to develop the first gene therapy to treat hearing loss raised $213 million Friday as it made its stock market debut, 70 percent more than the firm had projected four days ago.

Akouos sold 12.5 million shares at $17, above the original range of $14 to $16, and in line with the upsized share offering and price it filed Thursday morning. On Monday, the company said in a filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission that it hoped to raise $125 million in the initial public offering.

Shares in the company, which is listed on the Nasdaq under the symbol AKUS, closed Friday at $22, up more than 29 percent.

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Akouos is the latest biotech to see higher than expected demand in the public markets despite the pandemic-related recession: the 2020 biotech IPO class is averaging a return of 80 percent, according to Renaissance Capital, a pre-IPO research provider for institutional investors.

Some analysts say COVID-19 has underscored the promise of biotechnology to address deadly health threats, generating investor enthusiasm. Among the biotechs whose market values have soared during the epidemic is Moderna, a Cambridge drug company that was the first to get an experimental coronavirus vaccine into human trials. Moderna, which went public in 2018, has a market value of more than $22 billion, though it has no approved products.

Akouos, founded in 2016, is trying to develop the first gene therapy to treat hearing loss — in particular, a form of deafness caused by mutations in a single gene. Gene-based hearing loss afflicts 300,000 people in the United States each year, including more than 4,000 newborns.

Its lead candidate is a treatment for a type of genetic hearing loss that afflicts about 7,000 people. The company hopes to use a small virus called adeno-associated virus, or AAV, as a vector to deliver DNA that encodes a functioning gene in target cells. These viruses don’t typically cause disease and can be customized to treat different inherited conditions.

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Akouos has partnerships with Massachusetts Eye and Ear and Lonza, a Swiss multinational manufacturer that has contracts with drugmakers.




Jonathan Saltzman can be reached at jonathan.saltzman@globe.com