Oxford Covid biotech firm makes stellar debut on London stock market

Oxford Nanopore's DNA sequencing technology, which has been crucial in tracking Covid-19 variants around the world, has made a spectacular stock market debut in London. The firm is now valued at nearly 5bn after a 47% increase in its share price.
Gordon Sanghera (the Oxford University spin-out founder) has a fortune of 63 million paper.

Sanghera has not yet sold any of his 10.3m shares. However, Spike Willcocks (the co-founder of the firm and chief business development officer), sold 368,000 shares at 1.56m in the initial public offering. After the value increase, he now has 4.9m shares. This is nearly 30 million. Clive Brown, chief technology officer, sold 191,066 shares to 812,000, but still has 1.7m worth 10m.

The shares closed at 612.6p and the company had a value of $4.9bn. This is the largest biotech listing in London since Circassia, an allergy specialist, was listed in 2014.

Nanopore shares were priced at 425p during the IPO. This was towards the top end of the target range. The firm was valued at 3.4 billion at the beginning of trading.

Nanopore offers a variety of DNA and RNA sequencers, from handheld sequencers to fully automated desktop machines that can sequence the entire genome in under two hours. Nanopore's technology was used to track the spread of Zika and Ebola in recent years. It also helped identify Covid-19 variants within the last year in 100 countries. Sanghera says that the company's vision is to allow anyone to analyze any living thing.

With funding from IP Group in 2005, the business was founded by three scientists who met at Oxford, Sanghera Willcocks, Hagan Bayley and Willcocks. The university's professor of chemical biology, Hagan Bayley also helped to fund the business. As he is no more on the board, it is not clear what Bayley's shares are and whether he has sold any shares.

Sanghera stated that today is a proud day for the entire Oxford Nanopore Team, but that we believe we are just at the beginning of an exciting and long journey. We are at the forefront of the genomic era.

Markets.com analyst Neil Wilson said that the company had hit a sweet spot because it makes devices to sequence Covid variations. It is in a sector which will continue to grow and attract more investment.

Nanopore raised 350m by issuing 82.4 million shares and 524m shares. Existing shareholders also sold 41m shares.

Other London technology stock market debuts have been mixed. The cybersecurity company Darktrace saw its shares triple in value in April, while Deliveroo's much-hyped IPO fell flat.

Nanopore plans to tap into the global genomic sequencing market which is estimated to be worth $5.7 billion. Nanopore's sequencing technology is currently used mainly by universities and laboratories that conduct scientific research. However, it sees great potential for areas like infectious disease, immune profiling, and cancer diagnostics.

Under contracts worth 144m, it has also provided Covid-19 testing to the UK government. Its revenues increased more than twice to 114m in 2013. The company plans to cut its losses and make ends meet within five years.

Sanghera has been granted a restricted anti-takeover share by the company, which was approved by shareholders. This would allow him to veto hostile takeovers.