Drug Research
Drug Discovery & Development

Heat Biologics to acquire controlling stake in Pelican Therapeutics

Published 09 March 2017

Heat Biologics has agreed to buy an 80% controlling stake in Pelican Therapeutics, a privately held immuno-oncology company engaged in the development of agonists to TNFRSF25, a differentiated T cell costimulatory receptor.

Key highlights include:

  • Pelican was the recipient of a highly competitive $15.2m New Company Product Development Award from the Cancer Prevention and Research Institute of Texas (CPRIT), which should enable the company to advance multiple products through preclinical development and at least one program through a 70-patient Phase 1 clinical trial.  The CPRIT grant is subject to customary CPRIT funding conditions and was awarded in 2016 following a rigorous scientific and clinical evaluation process. 
  • Pelican’s T cell costimulator, PTX-25, in combination with other immunotherapies, including Heat’s ImPACT and ComPACT technologies, has the potential to enhance durability of responses due to its preferential specificity to ‘memory’ CD8+ T cells.
  • Preclinical studies demonstrate PTX-25 has superior “best-in-class” costimulatory activity for CD8+ cytotoxic T cells as compared to other costimulators.

Heat founder and CEO Jeff Wolf said: “The acquisition of Pelican aligns with our strategic focus targeting exciting immuno-oncology combinations, strengthening Heat’s portfolio in the emerging T cell activation space. 

“Pelican’s two product candidates are transformative assets for us as there are compelling data indicating that targeting TNFRSF25 may have significant advantages over competing costimulatory receptors currently under development. 

“This is important because many of the leading global pharmaceutical companies are focused on T cell costimulators to enhance the effectiveness of their existing immuno-oncology therapies.”

Heat chief scientific officer and preclinical development senior vice president Jeff Hutchins said: “Pelican’s PTX-25 has the potential to dramatically improve the durability of antigen-specific immune responses due to its preferential specificity for stimulating the production of ‘memory’ CD8+ T cells.

“We look forward to advancing these new product candidates with synergistic combinations including Heat’s existing T cell-activating platform technologies, ImPACT and ComPACT, vastly expanding our reach within oncology and possibly beyond.”

The acquisition is contingent upon certain closing conditions, including agreements of the holders of 80% of the outstanding capital stock of Pelican, on a fully diluted basis, to participate in the acquisition and enter into a stockholders agreement with respect to their remaining Pelican shares. 

As consideration for the sale of 80% of the Pelican Stock, Heat will pay the Pelican stockholders that participate in the acquisition an upfront cash payment not to exceed $500,000 and will issue an aggregate of 1,323,021 shares of Heat common stock, representing 4.99% of the outstanding shares of Heat common stock. 

In addition, Heat will cause Pelican to pay certain clinical and commercialization milestone payments, royalty and sublicensing income payments, and Heat will loan Pelican amounts sufficient to pay Pelican’s transaction expenses.  Cassel Salpeter & Co. served as financial advisor to the Heat special committee and Geller Biopharm served as financial advisor to the Pelican special committee and Pelican stockholders.

The acquisition is expected to close no later than April 30, 2017, subject to applicable regulatory approvals and other customary terms and conditions.

Source: Company Press Release