Alpine Immune Sciences, a cancer immunotherapy company founded by former Dendreon CEO Mitch Gold, is listing publicly through a merger with Nivalis Therapeutics (NVLS) , the companies announced Tuesday.
Once the merger is complete in the third quarter, the combined companies will take the Alpine Immune Sciences name and focus on its pipeline of protein-based immunotherapy drugs. Alpine will have $90 million in funding with shares trading on the Nasdaq.
Alpine's public market debut is a return to the Wall Street stage for Gold, the charismatic and controversial former CEO of Dendreon. Gold had a rocky tenure at Dendreon. Under his leadership, in 2010, Dendreon developed and secured the approval of Provenge, the first therapeutic cancer vaccine for the treatment of prostate cancer. But Provenge proved to be an expensive and challenging therapy to sell. By 2012, Dendreon was bleeding cash and sinking under a heavy debt load. Provenge was a commercial disappointment. Gold left the company, which eventually filed for bankruptcy and was sold to Valeant Pharmaceuticals (VRX) .
In his post-Dendreon years, Gold started a healthcare investment fund and founded several biotech startups, including Alpine Immune Sciences. In 2015, Alpine signed a research and licensing agreement with Kite Pharma (KITE) , granting Kite access to certain targets developed using Alpine's cancer immunotherapy platform.
Now, Alpine is going public, taking over what is essentially a non-operating Nivalis shell company. Nivalis went dark in January after the failure of a cystic fibrosis drug clinical trial. Under the terms of the all-stock merger, Alpine's current shareholders will own 74% of the combined companies, with Nivalis shareholders owning the remaining 26%.
Alpine plans to start a phase I clinical trial with its first compound in the second half of 2018.
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