Enlivex to merge with BioBlast, bagging Nasdaq listing

The merger combines two Israeli biotechs. (Tiia Monto/CC BY-SA 3.0)

Enlivex Therapeutics is set to bag a Nasdaq listing through a reverse merger with BioBlast Pharma. News of the merger comes as Enlivex gears up for a multi-indication phase 2 and 3 trial push for its immunotherapy Allocetra.

Israel’s Enlivex, which was formerly called Tolarex, is developing Allocetra to rebalance the immune systems of people suffering from a range of serious conditions including graft-versus-host disease (GvHD) and sepsis.

Allocetra consists of billions of semi-apoptotic cells taken from donors. The delivery of these cells is intended to attract the attention of macrophages and dendritic cells, which should work to clear the dying cells from the body. By providing this work for the macrophages and dendritic cells, Enlivex thinks it can make the immune cells less aggressive and thereby put out the cytokine storm.

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Enlivex has put Allocetra through a phase 2a trial in the prevention of GvHD in a matched-donor population, setting it up to move deeper into the clinic. A phase 2 trial in sepsis is set to get started in the second quarter of next year, with phase 2 and phase 2/3 GvHD trials set to follow toward the end of 2019. The phase 2 will assess Allocetra as a treatment for steroid-refractory GvHD, while the phase 2/3 will test its ability to prevent GvHD in patients undergoing bone marrow transplantations.

Ahead of the clinical push, Enlivex has merged with its Nasdaq-listed compatriot BioBlast. The resulting company will take Enlivex’s name and be run by its management team. Enlivex shareholders will own 96% of the combined company. With BioBlast set to raise $7.5 million through a securities offering, Enlivex will exit the merger with enough cash to fund it to the end of the phase 2 trials.

BioBlast signaled its interest in selling up when it engaged a company to consider strategic alternatives last year. The Israeli biotech was working on a treatment for oculopharyngeal muscular dystrophy and spinocerebellar ataxia type 3 but struggled to secure money to bankroll development, leading it to halt operations and look for a way out.

Shares in BioBlast rose 41% in after-hours trading following news of the merger.

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