Nordic Nanovector to merge with APIM after Betalutin fail

by Stephen Riddle

Five months after giving up on its lead drug Betalutin for follicular lymphoma, Nordic Nanovector has charted a course forward via a merger with fellow Norwegian biotech APIM Therapeutics.

The merger will create a clinical-stage cancer-focused biotech with funding that will last into 2024 and pipeline headed by ATX-101, a peptide targeting PCNA being developed by APIM in clinical trials for platinum-sensitive ovarian cancer and sarcoma.

Nordic Nanovector was hit hard in July when the PARADIGME study of Betalutin (177Lu lilotomab satetraxetan) – an anti-CD37 antibody radionuclide conjugate being tested as a third-line therapy for follicular lymphoma – was abandoned after being plagued with recruitment issues.

Losing Betalutin left Nordic Nanovector with a clutch of earlier-stage anti-CD37 candidates, including follow-up radionuclide Humalutin, none of which have yet advanced into the clinic. The company said in August that it had retained investment bank Carnegie to help explore its options and has now shed staff to a skeleton crew of eight.

In a market update, Nordic Nanovector said the merger is structured as a purchase of APIM shares that values the Trondheim-based business at NOK 439 million (around $42 million) plus cash on hand. The company said it expects to end the year with around NOK 95 million, while APIM has raised NOK 210 million to date.

The combined company – which will be renamed – will be around 76% owned by APIM shareholders and 24% by Nordic Nanovector investors and will endeavour to retain its listing on the Oslo stock exchange.

ATX-101 has completed a phase 1 study in patients with advanced solid tumours, showing preliminary evidence of efficacy and safety, and is currently in a phase 1b/2a trial in platinum-sensitive ovarian cancer and a phase 2 trial in sarcoma.

The drug has shown activity in multiple cancers as a single agent as well as in combination with other anti-cancer drugs, according to Nordic Nanovector.

“We believe that this transaction presents an exciting opportunity for our shareholders,” said Nordic Nanovector’s chairman Jan Egberts, who will take the same role at the combined company.

“We bring in ATX-101…which has significant potential for the treatment of multiple tumour types and has already shown a highly favourable safety profile,” he added. “In addition, the combined company will have broad expertise in the discovery and development of novel cancer therapies plus a robust discovery technology platform.”

For privately held APIM, the deal boosts its pipeline and gives it access to public markets. At the moment the plan is for APIM’s chief executive Kostas Alevizopoulos to take on the CEO role at the combined company once the merger completes, expected before the end of the year.

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