Cancer-Drug Firm Sensei Weighs Raising $100 Million In IPO

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Sensei Biotherapeutics Inc. is working on an initial public offering in the U.S. that could value the cancer drug developer at $500 million, according to people familiar with the matter.

The Boston-based company has mandated banks including Citigroup Inc. and Berenberg to advise on a listing as early as February, the people said, asking not to be identified discussing confidential information. It could raise around $100 million via an IPO in New York to help fund clinical trials, according to the people.

Representatives for Berenberg, Citigroup and Sensei declined to comment.

Sensei is working on developing cancer therapies that train the immune system to fight diseased cells thanks to bacterial viruses called bacteriophages. The company’s most advanced product is being evaluated in combination with Merck & Co.’s cancer blockbuster Keytruda, and Sensei is working to test it with AstraZeneca Plc’s Imfinzi.

While bacteriophages have been studied and engineered by researchers for at least 30 years, Sensei is among the first firms to use them as a cancer treatment. One clinical trial of Sensei’s most advanced product, SNS-301, is currently recruiting patients with head and neck cancers. A test in fewer than a dozen patients has suggested the medicine is safe.

Sensei’s backers include New York-based Cambrian Biopharma and German entrepreneur Christian Angermayer, who has advocated the use of psychedelic substances to treat mental illness. Angermayer is also one of the investors at Canadian antibody-drug discovery platform AbCellera Biologics Inc., which is about to go public.

Biotech companies have raised more than $25 billion in IPOs globally this year, according to data compiled by Bloomberg, mostly on U.S. exchanges. That’s a more than threefold increase on the same period in 2019, the data show.

©2020 Bloomberg L.P.

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