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Hearing loss biotech Decibel makes a lackluster public debut

The Boston company, which is working to develop gene therapies, raised $127 million in an IPO, but its stock price closed up just three cents on Friday.

Laurence Reid is chief executive of Decibel Therapeutics in Boston.Decibel Therapeutics

After raising $127 million in an initial public offering on Friday, Boston biotech Decibel Therapeutics had a lackluster opening day of trading, with its stock price closing virtually flat.

Decibel, which is developing gene therapies for hearing and balance disorders, had originally filed to sell 5.9 million shares on the Nasdaq exchange. But it ended up offering 7.1 million shares at $18, the high end of the expected range of $16 to $18. It closed Friday at $18.03, an increase of just three cents. The company is listed under the symbol DBTX.

The firm is headed by Laurence Reid, who succeeded Steven Holtzman in January 2020 after the latter retired as chief executive and became a strategic business adviser.


Reid is a biopharma veteran who previously served as chief executive of Warp Drive Bio, a Cambridge biotech that was acquired in 2018 by California-based Revolution Medicines. He also serves as an entrepreneur in residence at Third Rock Ventures, the Boston venture capital firm that has created many life sciences firms.

Decibel is among several biotechs working on cutting-edge therapies for hearing loss. Its rivals include Frequency Therapeutics of Woburn, which plans to share some results next month from a mid-stage clinical trial of a potential treatment that harnesses the body’s dormant stem cells.

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. Among the local biotechs that have debuted on the market in recent weeks is Agrify, a Burlington firm that develops technology for indoor agriculture, and Vor Biopharma, a Cambridge biotech cofounded by oncologist and Pulitzer Prize-winning author Dr. Siddhartha Mukherjee to fight blood cancers.


Jonathan Saltzman can be reached at