Parkinson's-focused Serina uses merger with ailing AgeX as opportunity to go public

For a few years, it seemed that AgeX Therapeutics was locked in limbo—forever warning that its cash was about to run out while its preclinical pipeline stalled. Now, Serina Therapeutics has finally decided to act on the opportunity to leverage AgeX’s public listing as it pushes ahead with its lead Parkinson’s disease therapy.

Under the merger, which is expected to close in the first quarter of next year, AgeX’s stockholders are set to own around one-quarter of the combined entity, with Serina’s stockholders accounting for the remaining 75%. The company will keep the Serina name and trade on the New York Stock Exchange under the ticker "SER."

Serina expects that a new CEO will be picked to lead the resulting biotech, with Serina’s chief financial officer Steve Ledge stepping up in an interim role. Most of Serina’s C-Suite will transfer over to the new company wholesale, including Chief Science Officer Randall Moreadith, M.D., Ph.D., and Chief Operating Officer Tacey Viegas. AgeX’s CFO Andrea Park will retain her role in an interim capacity before staying on as chief accounting officer.

Serina is focused on using its POZ platform, based on a synthetic, water soluble, low viscosity polymer, to target the delivery of small molecules. The combined company will push ahead with its lead candidate, a version of apomorphine called SER-252, in preclinical development for Parkinson’s. The biotech is aiming to secure FDA permission to begin a first-in-human trial in the fourth quarter of 2024.

Serina also has two other candidates it’s lining up to enter the clinic. SER-227 is a version of the opioid buprenorphine being assessed for postoperative pain, while SER-228 is a cannabidiol for refractory epilepsy indications. The combined company will also expand on Serina’s ongoing lipid-nanoparticle and antibody-drug conjugate partnerships, although the company’s website doesn’t reveal who these partners are.

The merger has been on the cards for a while, with AgeX loaning Serina $10 million back in March, and the companies have not been shy about the fact they were exploring whether the deal would work.

The combined company will also have access to $15 million spread across three tranches up to July 2025 as a result of post-merger warrants issues to one of AgeX’s stockholders, longevity specialist Juvenescence. The $25 million in capital is expected to provide a cash runway through to 2026.

Almost three years after seeing its cash drop below $1 million and almost four years after warning it might not last another 12 months, AgeX has continued to report that cash was running low and time could be running out for the company.

The biotech has listed two cell therapies, designed to treat cardiac ischemia and age-related metabolic disorders, and a drug formulation in its preclinical pipeline. But other than dropping a reformulation project, AgeX had made no changes to its publicly disclosed pipeline since at least May 2019.

“The AgeX team thoroughly reviewed and evaluated numerous strategic alternatives for creating stockholder value, and we believe this transaction with Serina presented the most compelling option for our stockholders,” Agex interim CEO Joanne Hackett, Ph.D., said in this morning's release. “We see exciting potential to generate novel drug candidates with the POZ Platform delivery technology.”

Serina co-founder and board chair Milton Harris, Ph.D., said the merger positions the biotech to “advance our CNS pipeline assets and expand our platform partnering opportunities.”