As it continues its studies of potential cancer drugs, a Westport startup is set to hold its initial public offering of shares on Friday — albeit with relatively weak transport compared to other biotech IPOs, despite what she described as promising results in clinical trials.

Intensity Therapeutics’ treatment is formulated to be injected directly into solid tumors, essentially saturating the tumors with what it calls “immune cells” that destroy these malignant growths and help the body generate natural defenses against any recurrence.

The company says it’s an effective treatment for late-stage tumors, either as an alternative to intravenous or oral drugs that reach target tumors through the bloodstream and can attack healthy cells along the way. , with side effects for patients. According to Intensity, early clinical tests showed “minimal” side effects, largely pain where the injection was given.

“Tumor regressions with destruction of cancer cells are widely observed in injected lesions,” Intensity said in an IPO filing with the U.S. Securities & Exchange Commission. “Many patients who had exhausted all approved treatments for their type of cancer have benefited from our product candidate.”

Intensity’s initial drug candidate is in Phase 2 clinical trials which are a precursor to seeking approval from the Federal Drug Administration, with the FDA not yet giving the go-ahead for Phase 3 trials. For a parallel trial in Canada, patients lined up on the possibility of a drug that could destroy the vast majority of their tumor before surgery, and the possibility of an anti-cancer immune response.

The company is aiming to raise nearly $10 million when it goes public, depending on investor demand for the new stock. In the past five years, only 11 biotech companies have raised $10 million or less via an IPO, out of about 285 tracked by Biopharma Dive.

Cancer is the predominant focus of these companies, with more than 130 companies developing treatments with the IPO funds they raised between 2018 and 2022. Stamford has had one of the biggest success stories, after Loxo Oncology’s cancer drug prompted an $8 billion takeover by Eli Lilly. in 2019, just five years after raising $68 million in an IPO.

In 2018, Arvinas raised $120 million in an IPO and additional amounts since to bring its total valuation to $2.2 billion on Thursday. Arvinas has reported cancer patients tolerating its oral drug with little distress from side effects and promising medical results thanks to its therapeutic approach called targeted protein degradation. Initially focused on breast and prostate cancer, the company is looking to expand its pipeline to treat other solid tumors and ultimately degenerative neurological disorders.

Intensity is hoping for a similar escalation in value as it continues its trials. The company will share 70% of the proceeds to cover its existing drug trials and general business needs, with most of the remainder to fund new studies of the effect of its therapies on early-stage breast cancer and soft tissue sarcomas.

Intensity operates from a modest office in Westport under CEO Lewis Bender, who could not be reached immediately ahead of the IPO on Thursday. Between his own contributions and those of outside investors, Bender has raised $32 million for Intensity since its launch in 2012. After spending $4.3 million to fund its drug trials and operations in the first six months of this year, Intensity entered July with $1.7 million in cash.

The company filed a notice of intent to hold an initial public offering of shares a year ago, after reserving the symbol “INTS” on the Nasdaq. In its latest SEC filing, the company says proceeds from the IPO should be enough to cover its costs through December 2023.

Bender previously ran Interleukin Genetics, a Massachusetts company that worked on treatments for inflammatory diseases but shut down in 2017 before bringing a product to market.

Intensity Chief Medical Officer Ian Walters joined Intensity in 2014, having previously worked on the breakthrough immuno-oncology drug Yervoy sold by Bristol Myers Squibb. Arvinas CEO John Houston was among those who led Yervoy’s business development at Bristol Myers Squibb.

Intensity has studied the effect of its drug candidate both as a solitary treatment and in combination with Yervoy. Intensity is also testing its drug in combination with Merck’s Keytruda antibody used to fight cancer. Keytruda was the world’s fourth best-selling drug last year, after COVID-19 vaccines and AbbVie’s drug Humira to treat arthritis, Crohn’s disease and other conditions.

Alex.Soule@scni.com; @casoulman