Immunicum AB and DCprime Combine Forces to Establish Leader in Cell-Based Cancer Immunotherapies
Immunicum AB (publ) (IMMU.ST) announced that it has entered into an agreement with Van Herk Investments B.V. to acquire all of the shares in DCprime B.V., a Dutch clinical stage company developing cancer relapse vaccines aimed to reduce tumor recurrence (the “Transaction”). Merging the complementary allogeneic dendritic cell biology approaches of both companies will enable Immunicum to further build and strengthen its position as a leader in cell-based cancer immunotherapies. Payment in the Transaction is effectuated through an issue in kind of 73,909,635 new shares in Immunicum representing 44 percent of the shares in Immunicum on a fully diluted basis. DCprime’s current majority shareholder, Van Herk Investments B.V., a leading European life science investor, will thereby become a significant shareholder of the combined entity. The issuance of the shares is subject to approval by an Extraordinary General Meeting (EGM) to be held on December 18th, 2020.
The main objective of the combination is to establish a unified company built on decades of combined immuno-oncology and cell therapy expertise in the field of allogeneic dendritic cell biology. Moving forward, Immunicum’s scientific focus will continue to be on triggering immune responses against established tumors via intratumoral immune priming and expanded to include the reduction of tumor recurrence via relapse vaccination. To date Immunicum has established clinical proof of concept for its lead program, ilixadencel, which has been tested in a range of solid tumors. DCprime has produced equally encouraging clinical results for blood-borne tumors including interim data from its ongoing Phase II study in Acute Myeloid Leukemia (AML), which will be provided in an oral presentation at the upcoming ASH 2020 conference. Together, the companies will advance a synergistic pipeline spanning both large and orphan indications in solid as well as blood-borne tumors, with two programs in Phase II clinical development and multiple near-term value inflection points as well as a portfolio of preclinical programs and research capabilities to fuel future pipeline expansion. Importantly, the combined process development and manufacturing expertise and specialized in-house research and development facilities will support the shared goal of becoming a leader in the development of cell-based immunotherapies.
The newly combined company will maintain its corporate headquarters in Stockholm, Sweden and consolidate research, process development and future manufacturing efforts at the location in Leiden, the Netherlands. Immunicum’s shares will continue to trade on the Nasdaq Stockholm.
Following the closing of the transaction, Erik Manting, Ph.D., currently CEO of DCprime, will join Immunicum’s leadership team as Chief Business Officer and deputy CEO. Jeroen Rovers, MD, Ph.D., currently Chief Medical Officer at DCprime, will have the role of the Managing Director of DCprime in the combination. Erik Manting brings several years of research experience in immunology as well as 15 years in commercial and management roles in banking. Jeroen Rovers brings 15 years of industry experience in a variety of medical roles, including CMO at Kiadis Pharma.
In addition, Immunicum will call for an EGM in order for the shareholders to resolve upon the proposed elections of Andrea van Elsas, Ph.D. and Dharminder Chahal to the Board of Directors of Immunicum. Andrea van Elsas is currently a venture partner at Third Rock Ventures, and his scientific career includes leading the anti-PD1 program that became leading immunotherapy, pembrolizumab (Keytruda®). Dharminder Chahal is CEO and co-founder of an oncology diagnostics company, SkylineDx, and investment manager to Van Herk. Van Herk is a leading European investor in life science having made a number of successful investments including Zealand Pharma, Ablynx, Crucell and Galapagos. Van Herk is also the largest shareholder in Swedish listed biotech company, BioInvent, where Dharminder Chahal serves as a board member.
By way of the Transaction, Immunicum will acquire all outstanding shares in DCprime. Payment in the Transaction is effectuated through an issue in kind of 73,909,635 new shares in Immunicum to Van Herk. The share purchase agreement has been entered into with Van Herk Investment B.V. and has been adhered to by Van Herk Royalty B.V., which is a company within the Van Herk Group and the current shareholder of the shares in DCprime. Before closing the shares will be transferred to Van Herk Investments B.V. Further, prior to the closing of the Transaction, Van Herk will acquire the minority shareholders’ shares in DCprime and such minority shareholders will consequently partly be paid in cash and partly in Immunicum shares. As a result of the Transaction, Van Herk will be the largest shareholder in Immunicum, holding approximately 43 percent of the total outstanding shares after the Transaction. Customary lock-up provisions covering a period of twelve months have been put in place between Immunicum, Van Herk and DCprime minority shareholders receiving issued shares.
Van Herk Investments, together with Immunicum’s largest shareholder, Fourth Swedish National Pension Fund (AP4), have expressed their support to the new, combined entity. In addition, Van Herk Investments, Immunicum’s largest shareholder following the Transaction, intends to invest up to SEK 82.5 million in the company.
Closing of the Transaction is conditional upon approval of issuance of the shares by the EGM, with a two-thirds majority requirement for the approval of both the votes cast and the shares represented at the EGM,1 approval and publication of the prospectus, and Van Herk’s acquisition of the minority shareholders’ shares in DCprime. The closing of the Transaction is expected to take place at the end of December 2020.
Immunicum’s assessment is that the current funds available for the combined entity will be sufficient to finance operations into the beginning of 2022 based on immediate financial benefit from the companies’ operational synergies. Immunicum will further propose to the EGM the approval of a mandate for the Board of Directors to resolve to issue shares in a directed issue of up to 20 percent of the outstanding shares after the Transaction to facilitate financing activities.
“As announced in the recent corporate and clinical update from September, one of Immunicum’s main goals is to expand the Company’s pipeline with the vision of becoming a leading cell therapy company. As such, joining forces with DCprime, an innovative company with extensive expertise in allogeneic dendritic cell biology, stands as an exciting opportunity with great potential for Immunicum that will build additional value for the Company, our shareholders and future patients,” stated Sven Rohmann, MD, Ph.D., Chief Executive Officer of Immunicum. “Together, we can pursue the treatment of both solid tumor and blood-borne tumors by intratumoral priming as well as systemic boosting using the next-generation of allogeneic, off-the-shelf cell-based therapies. Our teams and our technologies are complementary and would significantly increase the potential of our pipeline and deliver more value-inflection points and potential partnering opportunities.”
“DCprime has established a strong position in cell-based cancer therapy with a Phase II asset in blood-borne tumors. By integrating with the Immunicum team, we look forward to the continued advancement of our unique relapse vaccine approach in parallel to the ongoing clinical progress of Immunicum’s lead candidate, ilixadencel,” stated Erik Manting, Ph.D., Chief Executive Officer of DCprime. “From a corporate perspective, DCprime’s and Immunicum’s lean and focused organizations and excellent teams are the perfect match to drive the development of the combined pipeline products and identify additional novel therapeutic solutions to address unmet medical needs in the field of cancer therapy.”
“This transaction is a transformative milestone for Immunicum as it will bring additional value to the company and enable it to further establish itself as a leader in the development of cell-based immuno-oncology treatments,” said Michael Oredsson, Chairman of the Board at Immunicum. “Together, we will have world class competence with in-house process development and manufacturing expertise and specialized research and development facilities as well as strengthened ownership by the addition of Van Herk, a renowned and committed life science investor known for their success stories in Galapagos and Zealand Pharma, BioInvent, Galapagos and successful trade sale exits in Ablynx (Sanofi), Crucell (J&J), among others.”
“The combination of Immunicum and DCprime creates a well-positioned company with a broad pipeline with two programs in the clinical phase as well as several preclinical opportunities,” said Dharminder Chahal, Chairman of the Board at DCprime and representative for Van Herk. “We look forward to supporting Immunicum as the company further advances its innovative immuno-oncology projects.”
Source: Immunicum (Press release)