South Korean biotech group spies US SPAC as route to Nasdaq

OSR Holdings is the latest biotech business to choose a merger with a special purpose acquisition company (SPAC) as a way to hop onto the public markets.

Seoul, South Korea-headquartered OSR is a global healthcare holding company with operations including a pair of subsidiaries in South Korea and Switzerland focused on developing drugs for oncology and osteoarthritis. The company also owns a distributor of medical devices for neurovascular and other diseases and last week announced plans to acquire Landmark BioVentures, another Swiss company that operates four oncology- and immunology-focused biotech ventures in France.

The latest announcement will see OSR merge with U.S.-based Bellevue Life Sciences Acquisition. The SPAC went public in February with a $60 million IPO and the goal of finding a suitable healthcare-focused company to join forces with. In OSR, it appears to have found the desired target, and the plan is to take the holding company onto the Nasdaq under the new name OSR Biosciences in the fourth quarter of the year.

The only clinical-stage candidate in OSR’s portfolio is VXM01, an immunotherapy in phase 1/2 development by the Swiss-German biotech Vaximm for glioblastoma in combination with Merck KGaA’s Bavencio. Vaximm also has therapies targeting the proteins mesothelin, WT1 and PD-L1 in preclinical development.

"We are delighted to identify OSR Holdings as our candidate,” Bellevue Life Sciences Acquisition's CEO Kuk Hyoun Hwang said in a postmarket release yesterday. “OSR Holdings represents a timely investment opportunity working on the development of breakthrough therapies for unmet medical needs."

While SPAC deals were a hot ticket for biotechs to go public a couple of years ago, the rush cooled in 2022 as the industry hit tough times. Since then, their use has been more sporadic, with some companies testing the SPAC waters again near the year’s end. This spring also saw a trickle of merger announcements, with Anew Medical, enGene and NKGen Biotech all opting for the blank check route to market.