Flamingo Therapeutics is standing on one leg no more, as Dynacure folds into the biotech in a merger agreement that will see the combined company work on RNA-targeted oncology therapies.
The combined company, which will operate as Flamingo Therapeutics, left the lagoon today with Dynacure CEO Stéphane van Rooijen, M.D., leading the flamboyance and Flamingo CEO Michael Garrett at his wing as chief operating officer. Financial details were not disclosed.
Van Rooijen said the biotech ecosystem is currently experiencing “stormy weather,” but said the merger has been in the works since June of last year.
“It's a people business, and we—the management teams—get along,” he told Fierce Biotech in an interview. “The board members get along; we have common investors.”
Proof in point, van Rooijen was joined on the call by COO Garrett, who added that combining the two biotechs’ financial and clinical resources will ideally help get therapies to patients more quickly.
The merged company will focus on launching Flamingo’s danvatirsen in a phase 2 trial with Keytruda in patients with head and neck squamous cell carcinoma (HNSCC). Flamingo obtained rights to test the antisense oligonucleotide as a STAT-3 inhibitor from Ionis in 2021. The trial will compare the combination of danvatirsen and Keytruda against Keytruda alone as a first-line therapy for patients with recurrent or metastatic HNSCC who have tumors with a PD-L1 expression.
Though Flamingo has one preclinical asset called FTX-001—a long non-coding RNA program for solid tumors—discovery work is not the biotech’s focus, CEO van Rooijen explained. Instead, Flamingo is centered on clinical trial execution and its phase 2 study so it can make a significant difference in the future, he said.
The international deal will see the company wade across the pond with a new headquarters set in Belgium, where lab facilities are also located. The biotech will also have offices in France and Philadelphia.
Both biotechs had alliances with Ionis, which will be no different for the new iteration of Flamingo. Ionis’ CEO and President Brett Monia, Ph.D., has joined Flamingo’s board of directors, which will be chaired by Chris Mirabelli, Ph.D., chair of Leap Therapeutics.
As for funding, Flamingo’s current investors Kurma Partners and PMV have put down a further investment in the merged company. When asked about further funding plans, van Rooijen said Flamingo “will not sit back,” and intends to do more fundraising, though he said the company has enough money right now to run the phase 2 trial. When asked about any IPO plans, the CEO expressed caution, citing the need for data from the danvatirsen study first.
“I think it's a bit too early to speak about an IPO. And I don't know if the markets are open for that,” the CEO explained. “But I like the idea—the ambition.”
Dynacure’s most recent fundraise was a $55 million series C in April 2020. The biotech had planned to debut on the market in 2021 but ultimately withdrew its $100 million IPO proposal.
Then, in July of last year, Dynacure called it quits for its lead asset, DYN101, which Ionis had out-licensed to the company back in 2017. The drug was designed to treat rare genetic disorders, specifically myotubular and centronuclear myopathies.