Newly public Epizyme hopes to grow personalized cancer therapeutics company in Cambridge

CAMBRIDGE—A month after its initial public offering, Epizyme Inc. is back to the business of developing targeted cancer drugs. Its lead drug candidate, which targets a form of leukemia, is in early-stage clinical trials. And executives hope to build a significant company here.

“The goal is to get drugs to patients,” Epizyme chief executive Robert J. Gould said in his fourth floor office at 400 Technology Square, where the company now has 64 employees. “I believe and our investors believe that we can best do that by being independent.”

Biotechnology startups have been on a tear, accounting for 11 of the 21 IPOs of venture-backed companies nationally in the second quarter, the highest number in 13 years, according to data released this week by research firm Thomson Reuters and the National Venture Capital Association. Epizyme, which hit the high end of its $13 to $15 price range and raised $77.1 million in late May, was one of several biotechnology IPOs last quarter in the Boston area.

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The company, which this week was added to the Russell 200 index of publicly traded mid-cap stocks, works in the emerging field of epigenetics. Based on its “biological understanding” of genetically-driven cancers, it is creating drugs than can inhibit a class of enzymes that control gene expression and sometimes produce genetic alterations in cells that cause cancer.

In addition to the drugs it is developing in its Technology Square labs, some in partnership with larger pharmaceutical companies, Epizyme is working with other collaborators to develop diagnostics that can identify cancer-causing genetic alterations in enzymes.