Equillium acquires Bioniz Therapeutics to expand immunomodulatory drug pipeline

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Equillium, a Nasdaq-listed biotech company, has acquired Bioniz Therapeutics in a deal worth up to around $329 million, in a move to considerably expand its pipeline of novel immunomodulatory drug candidates.

Bioniz Therapeutics, which is based in Irvine, California, is a clinical-stage biopharma company focused on developing precision cytokine targeted therapies for treating immuno-inflammatory diseases.

Equillium, on the other hand, is engaged in developing novel therapeutics for the treatment of severe autoimmune and inflammatory disorders having high unmet medical needs.

Its acquisition of Bioniz Therapeutics gives access to BNZ-1, which is a tri-specific inhibitor of the IL-2, IL-9, and IL-15 inflammatory cytokines and BNZ-2, which is a selective inhibitor of IL-15 and IL-21.

Bioniz Therapeutics has also developed a drug discovery platform for creating highly differentiated immunology products.

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The discovery pipeline of the biopharma company includes BNZ-3, which is a pre-clinical candidate being developed for the treatment of gastrointestinal inflammation.

According to Equillium, the combination of Bioniz Therapeutics’ pipeline with its lead asset — itolizumab significantly expands its breadth in immunology.

Itolizumab, which is an anti-CD6 monoclonal antibody, is being advanced in a phase 3 study to be held in patients with acute graft-versus-host disease (aGVHD).

Bruce Steel — CEO of Equillium said: “This acquisition is transformative for Equillium. Expanding our pipeline with multiple first-in-class immunomodulatory drug candidates targeting various cytokines sets the stage for significant future potential growth and value creation, including strategic partnering opportunities.

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“The synergy of the Bioniz drug candidate portfolio with our current capabilities and expertise in immunology could not be stronger. Given today’s market conditions, we felt the time was right to be strategically opportunistic and we are pleased to add these exciting assets to our pipeline which we believe, in combination with itolizumab, can drive significant value for shareholders.”

The consideration for the transaction is made up of an all-stock upfront payment of 5,699,492 unregistered shares of common stock of Equillium to be issued to Bioniz Therapeutics’ stockholders, which represents nearly 19.3% of the former’s outstanding capital stock.

Equillium has also agreed to pay the stockholders of Bioniz Therapeutics up to $57.5 million in the form of potential development milestone payments pertaining to BNZ-1, BNZ-2, and BNZ-3 and up to $250 million in sales milestone payments based upon BNZ-1 meeting certain calendar year global net sales.

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David Pyott — chairman of the board of Bioniz Therapeutics said: “We were most impressed with Equillium’s synergistic mission, deep expertise in immunology and inflammation and strong development capabilities that are uniquely positioned to carry Bioniz’s assets forward.

“We have every confidence in the Equillium team to drive these programs to success, and to fully realize the potential of our pipeline and novel product discovery platform.”

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