Durham’s Argos Therapeutics makes stock market debut

Feb. 07, 2014 @ 05:48 PM

Durham-based drug developer Argos Therapeutics Inc. made its public debut on the stock market Friday, trading its stock on the NASDAQ at an initial price of $8 a share.

Previously, the company had targeted its price at between $13 and $15 a share. Argos’ president and CEO Jeff Abbey said recent initial public offerings by other biotechnology firms, as well as fluctuations in the market made it more difficult for the company to reach the stock price they had initially hoped for.

“I think it was just due to the vagaries of the markets, and the timing and the number of biotech IPOs that had been done recently, and the fact that a number of them hadn’t done that well, and also the market fluctuations the past week, especially early in the week,” he said. “I think it just made investors more cautious.”

The company raised $45 million from the public offering, Abbey said. Now the company has enough money to get through its major drug development milestones for more than two years, he said.

The company plans to use the proceeds from the sale of its stock to fund clinical trials for the treatments it’s developing, and a smaller portion for leasing, build-out and equipment costs for a new commercial manufacturing facility. 

Argos is developing treatments for a type of kidney cancer that’s spreading to other parts of the body, as well as for HIV. The treatments are designed to be personalized using biological components from each patient’s own cancer cells or virus.

The metastatic renal cell carcinoma treatment is the company’s most advanced product candidate. Argos is enrolling patients in a phase 3 trial to test whether the treatment allows patients to live longer when taking the drug in combination with another treatment, according to regulatory filings. Abbey said the trial is about 30 percent enrolled now, and should be fully enrolled by the end of this year.

It also has a phase 2 trial underway for an HIV treatment that’s being funded by the National Institutes of Health under a $39.3 million contract, according to securities filings.

“We want to create a fully integrated cancer company that is commercializing personalized cancer immunotherapies in a wide range of cancers, starting with kidney cancers, which is our first,” Abbey said.

He added the company wants to be fully integrated -- meaning it does its own internal manufacturing and sales, as well as development.

The company is considering locations in Durham as well as in other parts of the state, and out of North Carolina, for a new commercial facility where it would make its therapies.

The facility would employ more than 250 people, he said, at completion. The company employs about 100 people now.

The Durham City Council has approved a business incentive pledge of $600,000 for the company. The expansion would bring 179 jobs if it’s located here. At that time, county and state officials were also considering incentives for the company.

Abbey said the company is in discussion with the state, but has reached no agreement.

The company’s stock climbed to a price of $9.91 on Friday, but was trading at $7.99 in after-hours trading.