2 Nants become one as Soon-Shiong combines NantKwest, ImmunityBio

Patrick Soon-Shiong’s NantKwest made a splash in 2015 with its $207 million IPO, but five years on, it’s becoming the vehicle for fellow Nant company ImmunityBio to go public.

Slated to close in the first half of 2021, the all-stock deal will see ImmunityBio shareholders receive 0.82 shares of NantKwest for each ImmunityBio share they own. All told, ImmunityBio shareholders will own nearly three-quarters of the combined company (72%), with NantKwest shareholders holding the remaining 28%.

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NantKwest CEO Rich Adcock will helm the combined company, while Soon-Shiong, M.D., the ImmunityBio chief, will serve as the company’s executive chairman. Soon-Shing himself had led NantKwest until recently, stepping down as CEO in October and naming Adcock his successor a week later.

The new entity will take NantKwest’s place on the Nasdaq, but trade as ImmunityBio under the ticker symbol IBRX.

The deal will bring NantKwest’s natural killer (NK) cell therapies and ImmunityBio’s immunotherapy stable under one roof. One of those is Anktiva, ImmunityBio’s IL-15 fusion protein, which hit the mark in a phase 2/3 trial in bladder cancer.

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The study tested the drug alongside the standard of care, BCG immunotherapy, in 71 patients with bladder cancer that had not spread to the surrounding muscle. Of the 51 evaluable patients, 72% saw their tumors eliminated. The treatment kept cancer at bay a median of 19 months, important for a type of bladder cancer that often worsens or returns despite the standard of care. ImmunityBio plans to file Anktiva for approval in the second half of2021.

The duo had also teamed up on cell therapies and vaccines for COVID-19.