Jan 30 (Reuters) - Shares of Spark Therapeutics Inc more than doubled in their debut, valuing the gene-therapy company at nearly $1.5 billion and underscoring investor's interest in the field that recently produced a million-dollar drug.
The company's shares opened at $45.10 in their debut on Friday, nearly double their IPO price of $23, and soared to a high of $50 with about 6.6 million shares changing hands.
Spark Therapeutics' debut comes three months after the Western world's first gene therapy drug received a $1.4 million price tag, a new record for a medicine to treat a rare disease.
The sky-high cost of Glybera, from Dutch biotech firm UniQure and its Italian marketing partner Chiesi, shows how single curative therapies to fix faulty genes may upend the conventional pharmaceutical business model.
U.S. drug giant Pfizer Inc said last month it is moving into gene therapy, the latest sign that the technology may finally be ready for prime time after a few setbacks.
Gene therapy has seen more than 20 years of experiments but research has been dogged by a series of disappointments and safety concerns.
Spark Therapeutics' most advanced product candidate is in a Phase 3 clinical trial and targets a group of rare blinding conditions. The company also has a pipeline of candidates for treating blood disorders and neurodegenerative diseases.
The company raised $161 million after selling all the 7 million shares on offer at $23 apiece, above the expected range of $19-$21.
The number of shares on offer was initially 5.5 million and were expected to be priced at $15-$17 each.
The Children's Hospital of Philadelphia would own nearly half the shares in Spark Therapeutics after the offering. Venture capital firm Sofinnova Venture Partners and healthcare hedge fund Baker Bros Advisors also own stakes in the company.
Philadelphia-based Spark Therapeutics reported a net loss of $15.3 million for the nine months ended Sept. 30.
J.P. Morgan Securities and Credit Suisse Securities were the underwriters of the offering. (Reporting by Amrutha Gayathri in Bengaluru; Editing by Savio D'Souza)