A trio of biotechs consolidate as M&A fails to materialize at JPM

Many left last week’s J.P. Morgan Healthcare Conference a bit disappointed after relatively quiet M&A activity failed to wake up a bear industry slumbering through hibernation. Three separate mergers announced Tuesday show that many biotechs with a core asset are looking for new ways to survive.  

Among the dealmakers was Leap Therapeutics, which scooped up Flame Biosciences for $86 million to take control of the latter’s clinical-stage anti-Claudine18.2 antibody, FL-301, and two pre-clinical candidates. The move most notably adds another clinical product to Leap’s pipeline as it looks to jump the competition for new gastro cancer treatments. Leap’s lead asset, DKN-01, has nabbed orphan drug designation for the treatment of gastric, gastroesophageal junction and pancreatic cancer. Its newly acquired med, FL-301, is targeting basically the same cancers. 

“Having both DKK-1 and Claudine18.2 programs in our pipeline allows us to build that leading next-generation GI cancer franchise and be in a position where, as this panel of tests are ordered, physicians have choices that address the personalized profile of their patients’ tumor,” said Leap CEO Douglas Onsi on a call with investors Tuesday. 

A similar fusion was announced between hC Bioscience and 4SR Biosciences, with the two now working together to identify their first tRNA-based therapy. The merger announcement did not include a price but hC will be bringing on 4SR’s sequencing technology to further bolster its candidate-finding platform. The acquisition of 4SR comes just more than a year after the company launched, showing how quickly consolidating is happening among smaller biotechs. 

Rounding out Tuesday’s triple amalgamations was Elicio Therpeutics’ reverse merger of sorts with Angion Biomedica. Cancer-focused Elicio will pick up a sought-after ticket to the public market after withdrawing a $40 million IPO last September, while Angion will gain a corporate lifeline after it announced the end of development work to stay alive. Elicio is planning to launch a phase 1/2 trial of its cancer vaccine therapy in the second half of the year.