Vor Biopharma, a Cambridge biotech cofounded by oncologist and Pulitzer Prize-winning author Dr. Siddhartha Mukherjee to fight blood cancers, made a splashy stock market debut Friday, as its shares more than doubled their initial public offering price.
Vor’s stock on the Nasdaq ended the day at $37.50 a share, up more than 108 percent. The firm had raised $177 million in its initial public offering with 9.8 million shares at $18, the high end of the range of $16 to $18. The company offered 1 million more shares than expected.
Founded by Mukherjee and PureTech Health of Boston, Vor has developed a new approach to treating acute myeloid leukemia, or AML, a cancer of the blood and bone marrow.
Current approaches include a stem cell transplant in which cancerous bone marrow is replaced with highly specialized cells, called hematopoietic stem cells, that develop into healthy bone marrow. Doctors then use a variety of drugs, including immunotherapy, to attack remaining cancer cells or keep them at bay by targeting a signature protein they express.
The problem is that that some healthy cells also make this protein, known as CD33, and can be ambushed by the medicines. Vor has figured out a way to delete that protein from healthy cells through gene editing so that only cancerous cells are killed.
The biotech is named for the Norse goddess of wisdom, who was known as “the careful one,” according to the startup’s website. Vor’s experimental method for treating cancer is meant to take care of healthy cells.
Vor’s approach to fighting blood cancers was the subject of a “proof of concept” study in May 2019 in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. The article was cowritten by Mukherjee, Vor’s scientific founder. He is an assistant professor of medicine at Columbia University Medical Center and the author of the 2010 Pulitzer Prize-winning book “The Emperor of All Maladies: A Biography of Cancer.”
In spite of the COVID-19 pandemic ― and in some cases because of it ― investors poured money into biotech companies last year. In 2020, the sector recorded more than 100 initial public offerings, nearly double the number of the year before.
Interest remains high this year. Agrify, a Burlington firm that develops technology for indoor agriculture, raised $54 million when it sold 5.4 million shares at $10 a share in its initial public offering on Jan. 28. The stock closed Friday at $19.76.
Jonathan Saltzman can be reached at email@example.com.