Eloxx Pharmaceuticals, Inc. (NASDAQ: ELOX) today announced it has acquired Zikani Therapeutics, Inc. in an all-stock transaction, with the potential to create a leader in ribosomal RNA-targeted therapies for treatment of rare diseases and oncology.
Sumit Aggarwal, previously the President and Chief Executive Officer of Zikani, has been named President and Chief Executive Officer of Eloxx, and Vijay Modur, M.D., Ph.D., who was Zikani’s Chief Scientific and Medical Officer, has been named Eloxx’s Head of Research and Development.
“With the strength of our ELX-02 program for cystic fibrosis, this acquisition provides us with the opportunity to amplify the potential of our innovative science by developing a new class of therapies to treat diseases with limited to no treatment options under the stewardship of leaders with a proven ability to translate technology into treatments for patients,” said Tomer Kariv, Eloxx Chairman.
“We are excited about the potential of ELX-02 and combining the companies opens the door to build a leadership position in genetic therapy by rapidly developing treatments that can restore functional proteins in patients with nonsense mutations in their RNA,” said Aggarwal. “The combined capabilities of Eloxx and Zikani in chemistry, biology, regulatory and drug development, including Zikani’s TURBO-ZMTM synthetic chemistry platform for designing macrolide-based Ribosome Modulating Agents (RMAs), along with a committed leadership team and talented employees, will further accelerate our ability to impact the lives of those who have rare diseases with the type of urgency and novel thinking that they deserve,” added Aggarwal.
ELX-02 is currently in Phase 2 clinical trials in Cystic Fibrosis (CF) patients affected by nonsense mutations in the cystic fibrosis transmembrane conductance regulator (CFTR) gene. The investigational therapy has shown strong activity across a full range of mutations in CF preclinical models. In Phase 1 testing, ELX-02 was generally well- tolerated and demonstrated high bioavailability with consistent pharamacokinetics across both single and multiple-dose studies.
“The Phase 2 trials are designed to validate the safety of ELX-02 and assess its biological activity. We look forward to completing enrollment in the first four treatment arms by mid-year and reporting data from these treatment arms in the second half of this year,” said Dr. Modur.
In addition to CF, the company plans to file an IND in 2022 for what could potentially become the first oral therapy for protein restoration for patients with nonsense mutations in Recessive Dystrophic Epidermolysis Bullosa (RDEB) and Junctional Epidermolysis Bullosa (JEB). RDEB is an incurable, extremely painful and often fatal skin blistering condition caused by a lack of collagen type VII that is estimated to affect more than 3,000 people worldwide. JEB is the most severe form of EB, with most patients dying in infancy.
By extending the application of ribosomal RNA modulation to the readthrough of nonsense mutations in tumor suppressor genes, the company is also rapidly advancing preclinical research for familial adenomatous polyposis (FAP), an inherited pre-cancerous colorectal disease frequently caused by nonsense mutations in the adenomatous polyposis coli (APC) gene.
Nonsense mutations cause approximately 10-12 percent of rare inherited diseases. ELX-02 along with the TURBO-ZM™ library of compounds are anticipated to significantly expand to include the treatment of many other rare diseases and certain cancers.
Under the terms of the merger agreement, stockholders of Zikani received approximately 7.6 million Eloxx common shares and own approximately 16 percent of the combined company.
Board and Management Changes
In connection with the acquisition, Silvia Noiman, Ph.D., and Martijn Kleijwegt have stepped down from the Eloxx Board. Alan Walts, Ph.D., and Raj Parekh, Ph.D., who have both served as Zikani directors, were appointed to fulfill the vacancies and serve out the remaining terms of office.
“We’re pleased to welcome Sumit and Vijay to the Eloxx leadership team. They demonstrated their ability to transform Zikani by following the science and pursuing the creation of a new class of therapies on behalf of patients with unmet medical need. We want to extend our thanks and appreciation to Dr. Greg Williams for his stewardship of Eloxx and his commitment to advancing the critical work of the company. We are pleased that Greg will continue to advise Eloxx to facilitate a smooth transition,” said Kariv.