Calidi Biotherapeutics is planning to become a publicly traded company sometime in the second quarter of this year.
In early February, the La Jolla-based clinical-stage biotechnology company – currently pioneering development of cell-based delivery of oncolytic viruses – announced that it has entered into a merger agreement with blank check company Edoc Acquisition Corp.
Upon closing the transaction, the combined company will be named Calidi Biotherapeutics, Inc. with common stock listed on the Nasdaq Capital Market.
“We are excited about combining with Edoc to advance our mission of delivering life-saving oncolytic virus therapies with the potential to revolutionize patient care,” said Calidi CEO Allan Camaisa. “This business combination positions us well as we enter the next phase of our growth, delivering on the promise of our NeuroNova and SuperNova platforms, to surpass the deficiencies of the first-generation oncolytic viruses existing in the marketplace.”
The transaction includes gross proceeds of up to $27.6 million in trust at Edoc and a concurrent $25 million PIPE from institutional investors.
Additionally, Edoc entered into backstop arrangements with certain institutional investors for the purchase of up to 2.2 million shares of Edoc Class A ordinary shares.
Upon closing of the business combination, Calidi would be expected to have cash and cash equivalents of approximately $52.6 million, and a pro forma enterprise valuation of $449 million.
The boards of directors of Calidi and Edoc unanimously approved the proposed transaction, which is anticipated to close in the second quarter of 2022.
Promising Cancer Treatment
Calidi’s therapies in clinical development – NeuroNova and SuperNova – use oncolytic viruses protected by stem cells to attack cancer tumors. Because the body does not recognize cancer cells as a threat, the virus is used to kill the tumor as well as stimulate the immune system to attack the tumor and even fight metastasized cancer cells.
“With Calidi’s technology, we have a one-two combination,” Camaisa said, adding that the stem cells are used like a “Trojan horse” to hide the virus from the body’s immune system. “Sometimes the body is too efficient, recognizes the virus and kills the virus before it can kill the tumor cells.”
With its SuperNova technology, stem cells are gathered from healthy adult donors via liposuction. The viruses are then combined with the stem cells so they become amplified over time, with just the optimal amount before being frozen and stored for use in patients.
“There are several advantages with this developmental approach,” said Calidi CBO Stephen Thesing. “The first is the stem cell protects the virus from the immune system. The second is the amplification of the oncolytic virus within the stem cell, so it becomes a lower cost approach than treating solely with a naked oncolytic virus. And the third benefit is that the stem cell primes the tumor microenvironment. Within 24 hours at body temperature, the oncolytic virus continues to expand, breaking down the walls of the stem cell, and releases the payload of oncolytic virus inside the tumor, and the virus then attacks the tumor from the inside.”
Calidi has two therapies in development currently underway. Focused on areas of unmet need, SuperNova clinical trials plan to address intransit melanoma, triple negative breast cancer and head and neck cancers. Calidi completed SuperNova pre-clinical testing in 26 patients and is in pre-IND dialogue with the FDA for a possible clinical trial next year.
Calidi’s brain cancer therapy: NeuroNova, which was developed in collaboration with Northwestern University and City of Hope, has completed a Phase 1 clinical trial in newly diagnosed Glioblastoma and is preparing to go into Phase 2 clinical trial.
As Calidi steps up clinical trials for its cancer therapies, Camaisa said the partnership with Edoc is extremely compelling and synergistic because Calidi will be able to leverage Edoc’s network of over 400 physicians, many of whom are oncologists.
“Edoc has a network of physicians, hospitals and principal investigators who conduct clinical trials” he said.
Dr. Kevin Chen, chairman and CEO of Edoc, said Calidi’s “innovative” stem cell-based delivery platforms are being developed to “overcome the immune system’s ability to eliminate oncolytic viruses, potentially allowing oncolytic viral therapy to be successful.”
“We aim to invest in people and companies that can change the healthcare landscape,” Chen added, “and we believe that Calidi’s technology is differentiated and has the potential to transform cancer therapy.”
Calidi Biotherapeutics, Inc.
CEO: Allan Camaisa
Business: Stem cell-based oncolytic virus delivery platform
Headquarters: La Jolla
Notable: Calidi’s master stem cell bank was derived using liposuction of adipose-derived mesenchymal stem cells (lower back fat) from healthy adults.