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Unity Biotech IPO Raises $85M to Test Drugs for Diseases of Aging

Xconomy San Francisco — Unity Biotechnology has yet to show that its drugs can treat diseases of aging in humans, but it now has $85 million to start those tests.

The Brisbane, CA, drug developer priced its initial public offering late Wednesday by selling 5 million shares at $17 apiece, the midpoint of the $16 to $18 range it had previously set. Shares are expected to begin trading Thursday on the Nasdaq exchange under the stock symbol “UBX.”

Unity aims to treat diseases of aging at the cellular level. The company is developing drugs that target senescent cells— dormant cells that still secrete proteins that trigger aging or disease in tissue, the company says in its prospectus. By blocking these cells, Unity hopes to halt disease. According to the company’s published results from preclinical testing in mice, eliminating senescent cells improved the health and extended the lifespan of the animals.

There are other companies researching ways to treat age-related diseases. Boston-based resTORbio (NASDAQ: TORC) went public in January, raising cash to back a drug that treats the decline in immune function that occurs during aging. resTORbio’s target is a pathway called TORC1. Another company, Calico, is researching the ways that biology controls lifespan. But the South San Francisco, CA-based startup, a subsidiary of Alphabet, has not yet disclosed any drug candidates or the mechanisms it plans to target.

The Unity IPO follows a $55 million Series C round of financing in March, which the company said would finance efforts to start clinical tests of its lead drug, UBX0101, an experimental osteoarthritis treatment. Unity expects to start that trial later this quarter.

Besides backing the osteoarthritis drug, the IPO proceeds will also support clinical testing of a second compound, UBX1967, in an unspecified eye disease. UBX1967 is being developed for diabetic retinopathy, diabetic macular edema, glaucoma, and age-related macular degeneration. A Phase 1 study in one of those diseases should begin in late 2019.

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