Equillium to Acquire Metacrine in All-Stock Transaction

07 September 2022 | Wednesday | News

Expected to add $33 million in cash at closing to Equillium’s balance sheet and extend operating runway into 2024
Image Source : Public Domain

Image Source : Public Domain

Equillium, Inc. (Nasdaq: EQ) and Metacrine Inc. (Nasdaq: MTCR), today announced that the two companies have entered into a definitive merger agreement pursuant to which Equillium will acquire Metacrine in an all-stock transaction. The transaction is anticipated to add $33 million in cash to Equillium’s balance sheet at closing, which is expected to extend the company’s cash runway into 2024. The transaction has been approved by the boards of directors of both companies.

“I’m honored to be joining this experienced and talented team”

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“The acquisition of Metacrine meaningfully strengthens Equillium’s cash position,” said Bruce Steel, chief executive officer at Equillium. “As we continue to execute on our ongoing clinical development programs this cash runway extension is expected to see us through multiple data catalysts and operational milestones, including our interim data readout from the Type B portion of the EQUALISE study in lupus nephritis patients in the coming weeks followed by topline data in 2023; the initiation of a Phase 2 clinical study of EQ101 in alopecia areata; initiation of a Phase 1 SAD/MAD study of EQ102 in normal healthy volunteers and celiac patients; and interim data from both EQ101 and EQ102. While prioritizing our ongoing studies, we will carefully evaluate strategic partnership options to advance the acquired MET642 program, an orally delivered Phase 2 ready FXR agonist program in ulcerative colitis. Dr. Preston Klassen, president and CEO of Metacrine, is ideally suited to help us in this endeavor and we are pleased to announce his appointment to Equillium’s Board of Directors in conjunction with the closing of the transaction.”

“I’m honored to be joining this experienced and talented team,” said Preston Klassen, M.D., MHS, president and chief executive officer of Metacrine. “I look forward to working with the Equillium team to advance their exciting pipeline of clinical programs and explore strategic opportunities for MET642. I strongly believe that Metacrine shareholders will benefit from long-term value created by the combination of our companies.”

Through the acquisition, Equillium adds Metacrine’s farnesoid X receptor (FXR) platform, including lead molecule MET642, an orally delivered FXR agonist that is a potential first-in-class, non-immunosuppressive treatment for inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), including ulcerative colitis (UC) and Crohn’s disease. MET642 is expected to address multiple aspects of IBD pathogenesis including maintenance of epithelial barrier function and reduction of bacterial translocation. Equillium will be seeking a strategic partner with which to advance this program.

Transaction Details

The transaction consideration will be comprised entirely of stock, where Equillium will issue stock valued at a 25% premium over the net cash delivered at closing, which is estimated to be approximately $26 million. Net cash is total cash, cash equivalents, and short-term investments, adjusted by certain factors including debt, which includes term debt with an outstanding principal of $15 million, and other liabilities, as defined in the merger agreement. The stock value will be based on Equillium’s 10-day volume weighted average closing price calculated ten trading days prior to closing, subject to a share price collar ranging from $2.70 to $4.50. In addition, Equillium has agreed to terms on an amended debt facility with Metacrine’s current lender, K2 HealthVentures LLC, whereby Equillium would assume Metacrine’s existing loan with an outstanding principal balance of $15 million, along with potential access to an additional $10 million of committed debt capital. Concurrent with the transaction closing, Equillium intends to retire its existing debt facility with Oxford Finance LLC and SVB, which currently has an outstanding principal balance of $10 million. After paying off its existing debt facility, Equillium expects to add an estimated $33 million of cash to its balance sheet at closing. Equillium is not planning to retain any current Metacrine employees and expects to assume minimal operating expenses while maintaining sole discretion over the timing and extent of advancing development of the Metacrine programs. The acquisition is anticipated to close late 2022 pending approval from both Equillium and Metacrine shareholders, Metacrine having minimum net cash of $23 million, and other customary closing conditions.

Preston Klassen, M.D., MHS, has served as president and chief executive officer and as a member of the board of directors of Metacrine since June 2020. From March 2017 to June 2020, Dr. Klassen served as executive vice president, head of research and development and chief medical officer of Arena Pharmaceuticals, Inc. From June 2016 to March 2017, he was chief medical officer of Laboratoris Sanifit S.L., and from November 2009 to May 2016, was executive vice president, head of global development at Orexigen Therapeutics, Inc. Dr. Klassen also held several positions of increasing responsibility at Amgen Inc., including therapeutic area head for nephrology. Before joining Amgen, he was a faculty member in the Division of Nephrology at Duke University Medical Center. Dr. Klassen received his medical degree from the University of Nebraska College of Medicine, completed his residency in internal medicine, fellowship in nephrology, and Master of Health Sciences degree at Duke University and holds a B.S. in Chemistry from Central University of Iowa.


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