Healthcare IPOs in 2019: The rise of digital health and biopharma unicorns (Updated)

Note: This post has been updated with data from Cooley

Despite the fact that 2019 was a big year for digital health initial public offerings after a quiet couple of years, biopharma companies continued to dominate  healthcare and life science IPOs last year, continuing a multi-year trend.  A new eBook from MedCity News spotlights some of the more interesting deals and trends this year across digital health and biopharma.

There were 72 healthcare and life science IPOs last year in the U.S., according to data from the law firm Cooley.

A clutch of digital health companies splashed onto the public markets in 2019, reflecting the increased confidence in the long-term viability of these companies and the sector, such as chronic disease management business Livongo Health, health IT and data analytics company Health Catalyst and patient-intake technology company Phreesia.

A handful of healthcare companies saw their share price surge, such as 10x Genomics, a gene sequencing tech business, whose initial share price of $39 jumped from $52.75 on its debut in September to end the year at $76.25.

There were also some unicorns among the biopharma businesses such as Alector and Gossamer Bio.

The focus of the businesses behind these IPOs spanned a diverse range from organ transplant technology (TransMedics) to  fertility benefits (Progyny) to teledentistry (SmileDirectClub). Companies also demonstrated considerable age differences. Phreesia, for example, started in 2005, while 89Bio, a company with a lead drug aimed at treating nonalcoholic steatohepatitis, or NASH, only launched last year.

Acknowledging the trend of pre-revenue biopharma companies listing on Nasdaq to advance their fundraising and commercialization efforts, NYSE changed its rules to accommodate these companies last year. Under the new provision, the NYSE adopted a discounted annual fee schedule for businesses with negligible  revenue, as long as their global market capitalization is at least $200 million and meets other listing requirements.

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Photo: jxfzsy, Getty Images

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