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.
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.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.