Infinity pools resources with MEI Pharma in oncology-focused merger

With the dearth of Big Pharma buyouts and against the backdrop of a tough market, one trend so far in 2023 has been biotech-to-biotech mergers. The latest example sees Infinity Pharmaceuticals subsumed by MEI Pharma to create a combined company that will focus on Infinity’s lead asset along with two candidates from MEI.

Under the terms of the agreement, Cambridge, Massachusetts-based Infinity will become a wholly owned subsidiary of MEI, whose shareholders will own approximately 58% of the company. The remainder will be owned by Infinity’s shareholders.

The company, whose new name has yet to be confirmed, will be headquartered in MEI’s hometown of San Diego and trade on the Nasdaq. MEI Pharma’s Chief Operating Officer and General Counsel David Urso will become CEO of the merged company, heading up a C-suite featuring Infinity’s Chief Medical Officer Robert Ilaria Jr., M.D., and Chief Scientific Officer Stéphane Peluso, Ph.D. The current CEOs of MEI and Infinity—Daniel Gold, Ph.D., and Adelene Perkins, respectively—will both sit on the new company’s board.

Leading the combined company’s portfolio will be eganelisib, an oral immuno-oncology macrophage reprogramming candidate that will be evaluated in combination with Merck & Co.’s PD-L1 inhibitor Keytruda in patients with head and neck squamous cell carcinoma. Infinity reported in November that a phase 2 study of eganelisib in combination with Tecentriq and Abraxane produced some “encouraging” survival rates regardless of PD-L1 status.

“With this planned merger, we are creating a company that is well capitalized to advance a differentiated clinical-stage therapeutic development pipeline leveraging an experienced drug development and leadership team,” Infinity CEO Perkins said in the release. “With data supporting multiple potential development paths for eganelisib, we have prioritized head and neck cancer based on our ability to leverage encouraging progression free survival data from this patient population in MARIO-1.”

The remainder of the pipeline will consist of MEI’s voruciclib and ME-344. Voruciclib is an oral CDK9 inhibitor in a phase 1b trial as both a monotherapy and in combination with Venclexta in patients with acute myeloid leukemia and B-cell malignancies, while ME-344 is a tumor-selective mitochondrial inhibitor due to enter a phase 1b study in combination with Avastin in patients with relapsed colorectal cancer in the first half of the year.

The combined company will have $100 million in the bank, which should fund trials for all three candidates through to mid-2025. Initial data from the voruciclib and ME-344 trials are expected towards the end of this year, with a first readout from eganelisib not likely until the second half of 2024.

Infinity had anticipated a net loss for 2022 of up to $50 million. Still, the company had expected to end the year with up to $45 million in cash and equivalents, which it assumed would last into 2024. Infinity had already flagged finding a strategic partner for eganelisib as the company’s “top priority” for the start of 2023, though it’s unclear whether it was looking for as drastic a solution as merging into another biotech.

It wasn’t exactly a smooth end to the year for MEI, either. A meeting with the FDA saw the biotech and its partner Kyowa Kirin halt development of their B-cell malignancy prospect zandelisib outside of Japan.

The Infinity-MEI announcement came amid a busy week for biotech mergers. This morning alone also saw Jounce Therapeutics conduct a reverse merger with Redx Pharma—losing 57% of Jounce’s workforce in the process—and VBL Therapeutics merge with Notable Labs.