SPAC in business: enGene takes blank-check route to accelerate gene therapy's path to market

Gene therapy biotech enGene plans to debut on the public market via a merger with Forbion European Acquisition Corp.

The Canadian clinical-stage company working to develop next-gen, non-viral gene therapies has inked the special purpose acquisition company (SPAC) deal that is expected to close in the second half of this year.  

Several investors—led by FEAC’s sponsor Forbion Growth—have put down $135 million for transaction financing. The money is forecast to buoy the biotech through several inflection points that move the needle toward a potential FDA application in 2025 for detalimogene voraplasmid, also dubbed EG-70. The lead asset is designed to be a monotherapy for Bacillus Calmette-Guérin-unresponsive, non-muscle invasive bladder cancer (NMBIC) with carcinoma-in-situ (CIS) and is currently being assessed in a phase 1/2 clinical trial.  

The therapy was created using enGene’s dually derivatized chitosan platform that is built to allow non-viral gene therapies to penetrate mucus barriers. The company hopes to extend gene therapy’s reach by producing safe, locally deliverable, non-viral therapies that don’t require physicians to handle procedures like many viral-based gene therapies currently do, enGene CEO Jason Hanson said May 17.

The deal is also expected to help advance enGene’s early development pipeline in gynecological and genitourinary malignancies, as well as in respiratory diseases.

The proposed SPAC was unanimously approved by both enGene’s and FEAC’s boards and now is subject to the approval of shareholders and customary regulatory conditions. Once the deal closes, the combined company will be called “enGene Holdings Inc.” and will post on the Nasdaq.

The enGene-FEAC proposal comes amid a bit of a SPAC dry spell. After a number of high-profile announcements were made at the end of last year, the reverse merger model once again dropped off in 2023, with a few exceptions, such as NKGen Biotech’s SPAC plan via Graf Acquisition Corp. IV which was announced at the end of March.