Cancer immunotherapy developer Elicio Therapeutics finally gets a public market listing to fund its clinical research. But instead of the traditional IPO it’s been looking for, the biotech is going public via a reverse merger with ailing Angion Biomedica.
Under the merger agreement announced Tuesday, Elicio shareholders will own approximately 65.5% of the combined company, which will operate under the Elicio name. The agreement comes as Elicio continues clinical development of the lead program ELI-002, which is in development for the treatment of cancers characterized by the difficult-to-target mutation called KRAS. A Phase 1 dose escalation study has completed enrollment at the final dose level. Boston-based Elicio expects to begin an additional phase 1/b2 trial in the second half of this year.
Elicio develops drugs using patented technology that delivers immunotherapies to the lymph nodes, which contain large numbers of immune cells. By applying this technology to therapies that don’t tend to get to the lymph nodes, the company believes it can improve their uptake by these organs and their action on key immune cells. This technology platform, from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, was used to develop ELI-002. This experimental cancer vaccine aims to elicit an immune response against KRAS peptide antigens modified by Elicio’s technology. ELI-002 also contains an adjuvant to boost the immune response. This adjuvant was developed using the company’s proprietary technology.
Elicio initially filed to go public in 2021 as it looked ahead to clinical testing of ELI-002. The clinical trial began, but the IPO never materialized. The phase 1/2 trial is evaluating the Elicio cancer vaccine in patients with solid tumors, including colorectal cancer and pancreatic ductal adenocarcinoma. According to Elicio’s regulatory filings, the study is intended to target patients with minimal residual disease, a stage where the number of tumors and immunosuppressive effects in the tumors are reduced. Last September, Elicio notified the Securities and Exchange Commission that it was withdrawing its IPO paperwork, but left the door open for an IPO opportunity. The company instead opted for a reverse merger.
“We believe this merger reflects the strength of the ELI-002 program, our pipeline and the value-creating potential of our lymph node-targeted approach to treating cancer and other diseases by engaging lymph nodes, the immune system’s ‘schoolhouse’ . Elicio CEO Robert Connelly said in a prepared statement.
The kidneys were the focus Angion. Lead program ANG-3777 was under development for the treatment of acute kidney injury. However, phase 3 testing produced results that the company concluded would not support approval in kidney transplant patients at risk of delayed graft function. Following a separate phase 2 trial in acute kidney injury associated with cardiopulmonary bypass surgery, the company concluded that the data would not support moving on to phase 3 testing. Last January, Angion laid off nearly half of its workforce. In July, the company announced it would explore strategic options, including a merger, reverse merger or sale of its assets.
With the execution of the merger agreement, Angion has committed up to $10 million in a bridge loan to Elicio. The combined company will be led by Elicio’s management team and Elicio’s headquarters will remain in Boston. Angion President and CEO Jay Venkatesan will serve on the board of directors of the combined company. The boards of directors of both companies have approved the merger, which is expected to close in the second quarter of this year. If so, expect the new Elicio to trade on the Nasdaq under the stock symbol “ELTX.”
Public domain image by the National Cancer Institute