Acer aims for public listing through reverse merger
- Privately-owned Acer Therapeutics hopes to have snagged a NASDAQ listing through its reverse merger with Opexa Therapeutics, which would make Acer stockholders owners of 88.8% of Opexa's outstanding common stock.
- The deal is pending approval by Opexa and Acer investors. Should it go through, the resulting company would be named Acer and work on developing the Cambridge, Mass.-based drugmaker's lead product, Edsivo. A new drug application filing for the vascular Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome (vEDS) treatment is planned for the first half of 2018.
- Existing and new Acer investors have pledged to invest around $15.7 million prior to the deal's close, and Opexa's stock shot up by 80% following the news on July 3.
Acer has closed a number of funding rounds over the last couple of years, with an $8.15 million Series B round in May 2016, and a $4.1 million Series A financing in July 2015. The reverse merger will give the company access to a wider pool of investors, and the company plans to use the funding to advance development of Edsivo and expand its pipeline, which currently has just two products in clinical trials, both for rare diseases.
"Acer’s goal is to become a leading pharmaceutical company that acquires, develops and commercializes therapies for the treatment of patients with serious rare diseases with critical unmet medical need," Chris Schelling, Acer's CEO, said in a July 3 statement. "We believe that the proceeds from the concurrent financing will allow us to advance Edsivo through NDA submission with the FDA in the first half of 2018."
Opexa has been seeking funding since its lead drug, Tcelna, failed its Phase 2b study (Abili-T) in secondary progressive multiple sclerosis, not meeting either primary or secondary objectives. The company subsequently laid off 40% of its workforce. Opexa was also developing OPX-212, an autologous T-cell product, for the progressive eye disease neuromyelitis optica.
It's not clear what will happen to Opexa's pipeline after the merger — is the deal simply for Acer to gain a NASDAQ listing and Opexa's shareholders to get payback, or did the T-cell research experience and assets play a part? Opexa’s CEO Neil Warma didn't mention his company's candidates in the July 3 statement, but did touch on Acer's lead candidate and the growth value the merger represents for Opexa shareholders, suggesting the former reason holds more water.
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