- NKGen Biotech, Inc. (“NKGen”), a clinical stage Natural Killer (NK) cell therapy company, has entered into a merger agreement with Graf Acquisition Corp. IV
- NKGen Biotech, Inc.’s non-genetically modified, enhanced and expanded NK cells have the potential to be a possible treatment for Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s diseases and other neurodegenerative and oncological diseases
- NKGen is expected to have a pro forma enterprise value of at least $160 million, based on $145 million in pre-money equity value plus conversion to equity at closing of at least $15 million of outstanding private convertible securities and accrued interest
- Initial Phase I trial data expected to be presented at the American Society of Clinical Oncology Annual Meeting in June 2023 and the Alzheimer’s Association International Conference in July 2023
- As a closing condition to the business combination, at least $50 million in net proceeds are required, including up to $25 million backstop commitment from NKGen Biotech’s majority stockholder, which proceeds are expected to be used toward the funding of NKGen Biotech, Inc.’s Phase II trials and operations through Q2 2025
- Anticipated closing of business combination in Q3 2023
SANTA ANA, Calif. and THE WOODLANDS, Texas, April 14, 2023 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) — NKGen Biotech, Inc. (“NKGen”), a clinical-stage biotechnology company focused on the development and commercialization of innovative autologous, allogeneic and CAR-NK Natural Killer (“NK”) cell therapeutics, and Graf Acquisition Corp. IV (NYSE: GFOR, GFOR.U, GFOR WS) (“Graf”), a New York Stock Exchange-listed special purpose acquisition company founded by serial SPAC founder James Graf, along with Sabrina McKee and Tony Kuznik, announced today that they have entered into a definitive agreement (the “Merger Agreement”) for a business combination(the “Business Combination”). Upon the closing of the Business Combination, Graf will be renamed “NKGen Biotech, Inc.” and is expected to be listed on the New York Stock Exchange, NYSE American or Nasdaq under the ticker symbol “NKGN”.
Using cell expansion and activation technology and cell therapy manufacturing expertise, NKGen believes it can ultimately expand natural killer cells at commercial scale while significantly enhancing cytotoxicity. NKGen’s lead product candidate, SNK01, is currently in a Phase 1 clinical trial in Mexico for the treatment of advanced Alzheimer’s disease and two Phase 1/2 trials in the United States for advanced refractory solid tumors as a monotherapy and in combination with other agents including checkpoint inhibitors and cell engagers. On October 17, 2022, NKGen’s Investigational New Drug Application for SNK02, an allogeneic cell therapy, received U.S. FDA clearance for initiation of clinical trials in refractory solid tumors.
NKGen, which is based in Santa Ana, CA, has been funded since its inception in 2017 primarily by its majority stockholder, NKMax Co., Ltd. (“NKMax”), a public company based in Korea led by its Chairman and CEO Sangwoo Park, who is also the Chairman of NKGen. NKMax funds and conducts much of the R&D activities supporting the intellectual property exclusively licensed by NKGen for all markets outside of Asia, including the United States and Europe. NKGen is led by CEO Paul Y. Song, M.D., who was the first employee of NKGen in 2017. NKGen has a 25,000 sq. ft. wholly-owned and commercially licensed cGMP facility in Santa Ana, CA.
Paul Y. Song, M.D. CEO of NKGen, said, “The team at Graf fully understands and appreciates our novel NK cell therapy platform technology and our overall mission to help patients in real clinical need, especially those with neurodegenerative diseases. We believe that the Business Combination represents a key step in our overall growth strategy. We believe having access to the public markets will help enable us to fund our clinical development in advanced neurodegenerative diseases and support the launch of our off-the-shelf allogenic program in oncology”, commented Dr. Song. “We are looking forward to highlighting our technology and the many key roles NK cells play in human health, and we expect to demonstrate how our portfolio of autologous (SNK01), allogeneic (SNK02) and CAR-NK products may be used not only for cancer, but for neurodegenerative and autoimmune diseases as well.”
James Graf, CEO of Graf, said, “We are excited to partner with Sangwoo, Paul and the whole NKGen team to help realize their long-term potential. Graf has looked at numerous potential biotech companies and after reviewing NKGen’s science, differentiated manufacturing and cryopreservation technology, NKGen really stood out to our team. But what really resonated for us is NKGen’s commitment to developing treatments addressing unmet areas of neurodegenerative diseases.”
Sangwoo Park, Founder and Executive Chairman of NKGen and Chairman and CEO of NKMax, added: “We are excited to take this next step in bringing potentially innovative treatments to patients who currently have limited options. The guiding force behind our company has always been focused on improving the lives of patients. The passion and commitment of the NKGen team to help realize this mission is the backbone of our company.” Mr. Park further commented, “The Business Combination with Graf is an important step in our long-term strategy to become a leader in NK cell therapies. We expect that the combined business will potentially provide much needed capital to fund our clinical trials in neurodegenerative disease and cancer.”