Calidi goes public via SPAC with $70M lined up to push allogeneic cancer therapies into clinic

Calidi Biotherapeutics has become the latest biotech to take the special purpose acquisition company route to the public market, loading up with almost $70 million in funds to develop its allogeneic stem cell therapies through to 2025.

The San Diego-based drug developer will debut on the NYSE American stock exchange this morning following a merger with SPAC First Light Acquisition Group yesterday. The combined company will continue to operate under the Calidi name and leadership team but now has about $28 million in gross proceeds as a result of the merger. However, around $18 million will be used to pay off transaction expenses and debts.

To top up funds, the biotech has also signed a forward purchase agreement with a consortium including Meteora Capital, Great Point Capital and Funicular Funds for up to $10 million, with plans to enter into a separate agreement with Lincoln Park Capital Fund for up to $50 million, according to the Sept. 13 release.

“Both of these opportunities have the potential to add cash to the balance sheet in the future,” Calidi said in the release. “The company believes that the proceeds available to the company from the transactions will be sufficient to fund its operations into 2025.”

Calidi’s sole clinical-stage asset is CLD-101, which uses its NeuroNova platform. This therapy consists of allogeneic neural stem cells loaded with an oncolytic adenovirus and has already completed a phase 1 study in patients with newly diagnosed high-grade gliomas. A separate early-stage study in high-grade gliomas got underway in June with an interim readout expected in the first half of 2024.

The biotech’s other highlighted candidate is CLD-201, which uses the SuperNova platform. This consists of allogeneic adipose-derived mesenchymal stem cells loaded with tumor-selective CAL1 oncolytic vaccinia virus. A phase 1/2 study assessing CLD-201 in advanced metastatic solid tumors including triple-negative breast cancer, unresectable melanoma and squamous cell head and neck carcinoma is anticipated to kick off in the second half of next year.

Founded in 2014, Calidi is focused on bringing “a universal cancer treatment to a broad patient population who need access to new treatment options,” CEO Allan Camaisa explained in this morning’s release.

While not as common as during their 2021 heyday, 2023 has seen a steady trickle of biotechs use the blank check route to go public. Notable examples of SPAC merger announcements this year have included Alzheimer’s-focused Anew Medical and gene therapy biotech enGene.