Pharma Focus Asia

Sorrento Enters Into Merger Agreement to Acquire SmartPharm and Develop Pipeline of Gene-Encoded Therapeutic Antibodies, Starting With Neutralizing Antibodies

Friday, August 21, 2020

Sorrento Therapeutics, Inc. and SmartPharm Therapeutics, Inc. (“SmartPharm”) announced the signing of a merger agreement under which Sorrento will acquire SmartPharm, a gene-encoded therapeutics company developing non-viral DNA and RNA gene delivery platforms for COVID-19 and rare diseases with broad potential for application in enhancing antibody-centric therapeutics.

As previously announced on July 24, 2020, Sorrento and SmartPharm entered into a letter of intent setting forth the terms and conditions by which Sorrento would acquire SmartPharm. In consideration for the acquisition, at closing, SmartPharm equity holders will receive up to an aggregate of $19.4 million of shares of Sorrento common stock, subject to certain adjustments, based on a price per share calculated in accordance with the merger agreement.

Sorrento and SmartPharm also previously announced a research and development collaboration to encode and express in vivo Sorrento’s proprietary SARS-CoV-2 neutralizing monoclonal antibodies utilizing SmartPharm’s Gene Mab plasmid nanoparticle platform.

Using SmartPharm’s technology, Sorrento has identified STI-2020dna (DNA plasmid injection), an antibody encoded DNA plasmid candidate derived from Sorrento’s proprietary STI-1499 (COVI-GUARD™) and matured and optimized for DNA plasmid delivery to generate antibodies in vivo directed against the SARS-CoV-2 virus and its highly contagious D614G variant. STI-2020dna is currently undergoing preclinical in vivo studies and has the potential to generate long-lasting anti-viral protection with a single intra-muscular administration.

“We are very encouraged by the preclinical data generated thus far by our STI-2020dna plasmid candidate against COVID-19,” said Henry Ji, Ph.D., CEO of Sorrento Therapeutics. “STI-2020dna has the potential to produce potent antibodies in the human body in vivo which may provide an attractive alternative to vaccines that might not be effective against the emerging and highly contagious variants of the virus.”

“The merger with Sorrento presents a tremendous opportunity to advance our next-generation, non-viral gene therapy technology and combine it with Sorrento’s significant R&D and manufacturing capabilities,” said Jose Trevejo M.D., Ph.D., CEO of SmartPharm Therapeutics. “From the first emergence of this deadly coronavirus, Sorrento has dedicated their resources to the development of multiple countermeasures to COVID-19, including potent antibody candidates. This merger should help accelerate our gene-encoded antibody platform technology (Gene Mab) with the ultimate goal of helping patients affected by this global pandemic as well as other diseases.”

The transaction is expected to close in early September 2020, subject to customary closing conditions. If the proposed merger is consummated, the issuance of the shares of Sorrento common stock would be made in accordance with an exemption from the registration requirements of the Securities Act of 1933, as amended (the “Securities Act”), pursuant to Section 4(a)(2) thereof and Regulation D thereunder. Such shares of Sorrento common stock would not be registered under the Securities Act and could not be offered or sold without registration unless an exemption from such registration is available. This press release does not constitute an offer to sell or the solicitation of an offer to buy, any shares of Sorrento common stock.

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