TapImmune (NSDQ:TPIV) expanded its immuno-oncology capabilities today with a deal to acquire Marker Therapeutics and its clinical-stage, multi-antigen T cell therapy platform.
Details regarding merger-related financing were not disclosed, but TapImmune said it is in talks with a syndicate of institutional investors to fund the company until 2020.
“I believe that the new therapies we are acquiring with Marker in this transaction represent the next major leap forward in cell therapy for cancer,” president & CEO of TapImmune, Peter Hoang, said in prepared remarks. “The merger adds to our product pipeline a synergistic portfolio of highly-differentiated T cell therapies that has demonstrated potentially groundbreaking results in early clinical trials in lymphoma, acute myeloid leukemia (AML), and multiple myeloma.”
Marker’s T cell therapy requires no genetic modification of the cells, according to Hoang, which poses a cost benefit to the combined company compared to existing gene-modified cell therapies, since Marker’s cells are less complex to manufacture.
The chief executive also pointed out that Marker’s cell therapies are less toxic than traditional CAR-T therapies.
“With more than 60 patients treated, our therapies have never caused cytokine release syndrome or a related serious adverse event in patients treated with our therapy. In fact, we have seen only one grade III adverse reaction that was considered possibly related in our patients to date, versus a 95% incidence rate of grade III or higher adverse events in recent CAR-T studies,” he explained.
The company’s cell therapy product could also help patients who currently can’t access CAR-T therapies, Hoang noted.
“Because our product is derived from natural patient T cells without gene modification, we are able to treat patients earlier and in indications that are currently not addressable by CAR-T therapies. We have seen strong patients responses that are highly durable, while seeing no associated graft versus host disease (GvHD) in post-transplant relapsed/refractory AML, a setting where currently the only available alternative therapy is a donor lymphocyte infusion (DLI). DLIs generally have very low patient response rates with high rates of severe associated GvHD. CAR-T approaches cannot currently be used in post-transplant relapsed/refractory AML because most envisioned CAR-T therapies are targeted to antigens expressed on hematopoietic stem cells, potentially causing fatal neutropenia,” he said.
TapImmune and Marker, which will each own 50% of the combined company once the deal is finalized, plan to rebrand themselves under a single name.
TapImmune also said that its largest stockholder, Eastern Capital, has agreed to buy 1.3 million shares of common stock at $2.40 apiece. Other institutional holders of outstanding warrants have agreed to exercise their warrants at $2.50 per share. Combined, the deals are slated to bring TapImmune nearly $5.1 million.
Marker’s chief executive, John Wilson, also agreed to commit up to $1 million.
The merger, which is expected to close in the second half of 2018, has been unanimously cleared by the boards of directors for Marker and TapImmune.