SPAC is EBAC: Swiss biotech with ocular pipeline takes blank-check route

As special purpose acquisition company (SPAC) deals in biotech make a slow comeback, another merger has been penned, this time between Swiss biotech Oculis and European Biotech Acquisition Corp (EBAC).   

Once an industry staple, the so-called blank-check deals in biotech were all but left for dead at the start of 2022, with zero SPAC mergers occurring in the first quarter. However, a string of recent biotech SPAC mergers (see Estrella Biopharma, Apollomics and Ocean Biomedical) has put the deal structure back in the limelight.

The newest merger, which is set to close in the first quarter of 2023, places eye care biotech Oculis on the path to become a publicly traded company.

Once combined, the new company is expected to have a post-transaction enterprise value around $220 million and a cash balance above $200 million. This includes about $127.5 million held in EBAC’s trust, which in part is made up of a private investment financing of almost $80 million from a slew of investors including Novartis Venture Fund.

Oculis is currently conducting two phase 3 trials, one for solubilized eye drops in diabetic macular edema—a disease that can lead to blindness and is currently treated via eye injection—and another in inflammation and pain following ocular surgery.

Last year, Chief Medical Officer Joanne Chang, M.D., Ph.D., left her role as Novartis’ head of global medical affairs for ophthalmology to oversee Oculis’ pipeline programs. The move came two years after the Big Pharma licensed its topical antibody for inflammatory eye disease to Oculis.