It has been a turbulent few months for biotech startups trying to list their shares on the public markets. First, a profligate 2018 turned sour for initial public offerings, with the average debutant down more than 20 percent by year’s end. Then, the record-setting federal shutdown forced a dozen or so would-be success stories to sit on their hands as market regulators stayed at home and unpaid.
Now, with the government back open, biotech has its Punxsutawney Phil in the form of Alector, a 6-year-old company hoping to convince the world that its novel approach to Alzheimer’s disease is worth a $1.4 billion valuation. And, with five other biotech firms angling to go public this month, Alector’s offering — expected to price this week — has become a closely watched barometer of what 2019 might have in store for the drug development industry.