Alan Mendelson, Latham & Watkins partner (Christine Jegan / The Recorder)
Correction: A previous version of this story incorrectly listed an associate not actually on the deal for Latham & Watkins. Alexander Berg did not work on the deal, instead it is Alexander White, out of the Menlo Park office.
SAN FRANCISCO — Latham & Watkins advised Menlo Park-based Avalanche Biotechnologies Inc. in filing its initial public offering. The clinical stage biotechnology firm listed 6 million shares of common stock at $17 a share on July 31, looking to raise $102 million.
Menlo Park-based partners Alan Mendelson and Robert Phillips led the Latham team, which included attorneys in Houston and Washington, D.C.
Trading opened above price on Thursday morning, at $24.70 per share. It closed Thursday at $28.43, a 67 percent increase over the list price.
Mendelson said the well-performing stock reflects a strong market, where “gene therapy is viewed extremely positively by investors today.” Gene therapy involves implanting specific genes or replacing defective ones to prevent and limit disease. Avalanche is working on treating sight loss, or age-related macular degeneration, in its research.
“Avalanche has a product candidate that still has a long way to go, but if it gets approved, it could fundamentally change the market, at least for age-related macular degeneration patients,” Mendelson said. “Obviously, the technology has potential applications for other diseases, and I think investors appreciate that.”
He stressed the importance of the changes made under the Jumpstart Our Business Startups Act in allowing emerging companies to file confidentially and to “test the waters” with potential investors before going public.
“The significance of the JOBS Act for biotech companies cannot be underestimated,” Mendelson said.
Avalanche’s stock has faired better than other biotech companies in the past weeks. On July 24, San Diego-based Pfenex Inc., also working to treat sight loss, though not through gene therapy, underperformed in its IPO. Though the company listed its common stock at $6 a share, trading has hovered below that mark since its start. Emeryville-based KineMed Inc. and Brisbane-based Atara Biotherapeutics Inc. both postponed their IPOs last week.
The Latham team included Menlo Park-based partners Judith Hasko and James Metz and associates Benjamin Potter, W. Riley Lochridge, Alexander White, Arielle Singh and Lilly Fang. San Francisco-based partner Grace Chen and counsel Betty Pang and associate Una Au also worked on the transaction.
Latham represented Avalanche in its $55 million Series B financing in April as well. Mendelson said he has advised the company for a couple of years.
Covington & Burling represented Jeffries LLC, Cowen & Co. LLC., Piper Jaffray & Co. LLC and William Blair & Co. LLC, serving as the underwriters. New York-based partner Eric Blanchard led the Covington team, which included San Francisco-based associate Robert Wu and former special counsel Todd Hamblet, who is no longer with the firm. Last week, Hamblet moved in-house to San Francisco-based ride-sharing service Uber Technologies Inc., a Covington spokeswoman confirmed Thursday. New York- and Washington, D.C.-based attorneys aided in the deal.
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