Elicio uses struggling Angion as route to Nasdaq ahead of cancer vaccine's phase 2 move

In a merger with troubled Angion Biomedica, Elicio Therapeutics has spied an opportunity to finally list on the Nasdaq as it prepares to push a cancer vaccine into phase 2 trials.

The writing had been on the wall for Angion since last summer, when the fibrotic-disease-focused biotech discontinued almost all of its development activities in a bid to conserve its remaining cash while it sought out “strategic alternatives” that could act as a lifeline.

The all-stock transaction will see the combined company operate under the Elicio banner and list on the Nasdaq under the ticker "ELTX." The public markets have long been an objective for the company, which withdrew a planned $40 million IPO last September. By merging with publicly listed Angion, Elicio has found an easier route to the stock market.

The new Elicio will continue to focus on its own lymph node-targeting Amphiphile technology to develop immunotherapies. Chief among these is therapeutic cancer vaccine ELI-002, undergoing a phase 1 trial for patients with mKRAS-driven tumors including pancreatic ductal adenocarcinoma and colorectal cancer. An additional phase 1b/2 trial is planned for the second half of this year.

“The merger with Angion comes at an ideal time with ELI-002 now completing the dose escalation portion of phase 1 clinical studies in patients,” said Elicio CEO Robert Connelly. “We believe this merger reflects the strength of the ELI-002 program, our pipeline, and the value-creating potential of our lymph node-targeting approach to treating cancer and other diseases by engaging lymph nodes, the ‘schoolhouse’ of the immune system.”

From Angion’s point of view, the deal was the best option to reward investors, according to CEO Jay Venkatesan, M.D. “We believe this merger will provide Angion shareholders the opportunity to meaningfully participate in a company treating cancer patients in an innovative way,” Venkatesan said.

Following the deal, Angion’s stockholders are expected to own about 34.5% of the combined company, with Elicio’s stockholders making up the rest. Angion also committed up to $10 million in a bridge loan to Elicio, to be paid in two installments.

The resulting company will be led by Elicio's executive team, with Connelly remaining as CEO and Angion's Venkatesan sitting on the board of directors.

Elicio launched in 2019 with the aim of using precision vaccines, immunomodulators and cell-based therapies to summon cancer-killing immune responses against both blood and solid tumors. The biotech’s work is based on a platform developed in the lab of Darrell Irvine, Ph.D., a Howard Hughes Medical Institute investigator and professor at the Koch Institute for Integrative Cancer Research at MIT.

Cancer vaccines returned to the headlines at the end of last year as Merck & Co.'s $250 million bet on Moderna appeared to pay off with a personalized mRNA therapy reducing the risk of recurrence or death by 44% when given to melanoma patients in combination with Keytruda.