Jeff Saper, Wilson Sonsini Goodrich and by Jason Doiy.1-17-2011.056-2011
Jeff Saper, Wilson Sonsini Goodrich and by Jason Doiy.1-17-2011.056-2011 (Jason Doiy)

Correction: A previous version of this story incorrectly said that Jeffrey Saper led the Wilson Sonsini transaction on his own. Saper was instead co-lead with San Diego-based partner Dan Koeppen.

SAN FRANCISCO — Wilson Sonsini Goodrich & Rosati advised San Diego-based Pfenex Inc. in its initial public offering, as the company listed itself on the New York Stock Exchange July 24. The clinical stage biotechnology company registered 8.3 million shares of common stock at a price of $6 per share, though the shares opened and remained below that price, becoming the latest biotech offering to underperform.

Palo Alto-based partner Jeffrey Saper and San Diego-based partner Dan Koeppen led the Wilson Sonsini team, which included San Diego-based partners Jeffrey Guise and Ian Edvalson and associates Zachary Myers and Matthew Bresnahan.

The company, which develops multiple drugs and proteins for testing and research, initially filed with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission in early June, with an intent to raise roughly $75 million. That number changed periodically through multiple amendments, with the company settling on trying to raise anywhere between $58.6 and $67.6 million. At its most optimistic lookout, the company planned to sell almost 6 million shares at $14 a share, with proceeds of more than $80 million.

But with a trading price still under $6 after three days, Pfenex joins a list of biotech companies to experience disappointing IPOs in the past week. The same day Pfenex listed itself on the NYSE, Menlo Park-based sinus implant developer Intersect ENT Inc. lowered its expectations. By pricing its common stock at $11 a share, the company sought to raise $60 million versus the $80 million it filed for a month earlier. On July 23, Emeryville-based KineMed Inc. pulled its $41 million planned IPO, only to be joined a day later by Brisbane-based Atara Biotherapeutics Inc.

Palo Alto-based Cooley partner Barbara Kosacz, who was not involved in the deal, said biotech companies often have to choose to jump into an IPO even if the results are less than expected.

“Financial streams can go stale, so some companies have to choose to get out there and raise the cash by going public even if they’re going out into rough waters,” Kosacz said. She called the current market “choppy.”

The environment is a drastic turn from earlier this year, when Watertown, Mass.-based Dicerna Pharmaceuticals Inc. saw its shares more than double on opening day in late January. The company had no products available for clinical trial at the time.

Pfenex currently has a lead product aimed at treating a common form of age-related vision loss that is slated for Phase III trials in 2015. Three more products are slated for Phase I testing later this year. Trading under the symbol PFNX, the company’s stock closed at $5.30 a share on the first day of trading.

Underwriters William Blair & Co. LLC, JMP Securities LLC and Mizuho Securities USA Inc. were advised by a Chicago-based Latham & Watkins team.

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