CRISPR Therapeutics' IPO has come in significantly below announced plans to offer 4.7 million shares ranging from $15 to $17 apiece, where a midpoint pricing would've raised $75.2 million. The Swiss biotech, which specializes in the contested space of gene-editing technology, has instead raised $56 million with its 4-million-share offering, pricing a dollar below its initial range at $14. Two other companies working in this space fared far better in their efforts to go public.
In February, Editas Medicine (NASDAQ: EDIT) raised $94.4 million with its IPO—its shares closed Wednesday up slightly at $13.91 apiece. The second big gene-editing company to IPO, Intellia Therapeutics (NASDAQ: NTLA), raised $150 million in May—its shares closed the day up almost 5% at $12.61 apiece. By comparison, CRISPR Therapeutics closed its opening day of trading at $14.09 per share. But the prospects for all three companies are in jeopardy, despite the promises of a technology that can theoretically cure cancer and keep produce from going bad.
In just five years, the industry based on clustered regularly interspaced short palindromic sequences (CRISPR) could top $5.5 billion in value, according to Quartz. Trouble is, nobody really knows who will come to hold the patents to CRISPR-Cas9’s revolutionary biotech applications. After all, the technology itself isn’t even five years old yet. And the coming fight over those rights could derail fortunes yet to be made.
CRISPR Therapeutics has even warned investors in its SEC filings: “If we are unable to adequately protect our proprietary technology […], our competitors could develop and commercialize products and technology similar or identical to ours, and our ability to successfully commercialize any product candidates we may develop, and our technology may be adversely affected.”
Although that may simply sound like perfunctory language penned by lawyers, it’s also an extraordinary admission of the vulnerability inherent in a technology hurtling from infancy to maturity at breakneck pace.