Rare Disease Biotech Stoke Therapeutics Raises $142 Million in Upsized IPO

June 19, 2019

Marie Daghlian

Photo: Adrian Krainer, co-founder of Stoke

Stoke Therapeutics, a preclinical biotech company developing antisense therapeutics to treat rare disease, has raised $142 million in an upsized initial public offering priced above its target range.

The company sold 7.9 million shares at $18 a share, above its original offer of 6.7 million shares in the range of $14 to $16 each. Shares will trade on the Nasdaq stock exchange under the symbol STOK.

Stoke was started with the goal of targeting pre-mRNA splicing to develop precision medicines to treat the underlying cause of genetic diseases. Its technology, developed by co-founder Adrian Krainer of Cold Spring Laboratory, is focused on using antisense oligonucleotide to up-regulate protein expression in rare genetic diseases that result in protein deficiencies and are not amenable to gene therapies.

Stoke’s lead investigational drug, STK-001, is in preclinical development for Dravet syndrome, a severe rare genetic form of epilepsy that begins during the first year of life and is caused by a mutation in the SCN1A gene. When this gene isn’t working properly, sodium channels in the brain (which help brain cells function) do not work correctly. Development is usually normal until age two but then further development becomes delayed leading to cognitive impairment. About 1 in 300,000 babies born will have Dravet syndrome.

Currently, the only approved drug for Dravet syndrome is GW Pharmaceuticals’ Epidiolex, a cannabidiol medications that reduces the frequency of seizures. Stoke’s drug attempts to treat the root cause of the seizures by regulating messanger RNA to make more of the protein lacking in Dravet syndrome patients. In its IPO filing, the company noted that it will use Epidiolex’ seizure goals in its clinical development plan.

Stoke plans to start testing STK-001 in humans in the first half of 2020. The company is working with genetic testing firm Invitae, which is offering free genetic epilepsy screening for children ages five and up who have had unprovoked seizures.

Besides using proceeds from the IPO to develop STK-001, Stoke plans to develop other candidates in its pipeline that target single-gene diseases.

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