Quince hoping to sweeten its fruit with acquisitions, out-licensing of legacy Cortexyme assets

Quince, the fruit, may not need a lot of maintenance to keep growing but Quince Therapeutics, the biotech, is undergoing quite a pruning to ensure future growth.

After undergoing a corporate name change that became effective with a ticker change to QNCX today, Quince is now revealing a new strategic growth plan, which includes prioritization of its bone-targeting drug platform, specifically the lead compound NOV004 for multiple skeletal therapeutic indications.

Just to recap how Quince came to be: Cortexyme, struggling from a string of clinical setbacks, including a clinical hold for lead drug atuzaginstat, nabbed new leadership and acquired the skeletal-focused biotech Novosteo in May. Financial terms of that deal were not revealed at the time, but it marked a significant change in direction towards rare diseases, rather than Cortexyme’s previous focus on Alzheimer’s and Parkinson's diseases.

Now, as Quince, the company is ready to do more. The biotech plans to pursue an even greater expansion of its pipeline “through opportunistic in-licensing and acquisition of clinical-stage assets,” according to a Monday update. These potential deals will target rare diseases as well. Quince said that potential acquisition targets would need to have “compelling” clinical data and commercial opportunity, plus “clear operational synergy and value creation.”

The legacy neuroscience and antiviral assets from the Cortexyme days will be out-licensed. This includes COR588, which was heading for phase 2 in Alzheimer’s and other P. gingivalis-associated diseases. Atuzaginstat, also known as COR388, is also on the block. That therapy was the subject of the FDA hold earlier this year and failed a phase 2/3 clinical trial in November 2021. Other assets on offer include COR852 for P. gingivalis-associated diseases and COR803 for coronavirus infection.

Quince is already working on identifying partnerships for these assets, a process that is expected to conclude by the end of the year.

The focus now shifts to NOV004, which is expected to enter the clinic in 2023. The therapy aims to target bone fractures and spur rapid increases in bone density, strength and healing. Quince has mapped out its journey through the clinic into phase 2 already, with the lead indication osteogenesis imperfecta.

Quince heads into this new era with $105 million in cash and equivalents on hand as of June 30, which should last into the second half of 2025 and fully fund NOV004 through proof-of-concept human testing. The corporate restructuring undertaken in the first half helped clear the runway for the new strategic plan, Quince said.

“This team is empowered by a cash runway extending into the second half of 2025, providing us near-term financial security in a period of economic uncertainty in the biotech sector,” CEO Dirk Thye, M.D., said in a statement. “We intend to aggressively leverage the advantages of our strong team and balance sheet to build a highly impactful and valuable company.”

Quince's shares opened Monday at $1.97, rising 4% to $2.03.