Bradford Zakes recently helped combine the Seattle-area biotech company he led, Cerevast Medical, with two startups to create a new company. Now he’s poised to take Longevity Biomedical public as its president and CEO, via a merger with a shell company.
The merger is expected to raise at least $30 million for Bothell, Wash.-based Longevity. The deal, which merges Longevity with a SPAC (special purpose acquisition company), is expected to close in the second quarter of this year.
Longevity combines Cerevast with NovoKera, a Nevada startup, and Aegeria Soft Tissue, a Johns Hopkins University spinout.
The common theme is helping aging people lead healthier, longer lives, Zakes said in an interview with GeekWire.
“We think we’ve pulled together a really attractive portfolio of assets,” Zakes said.
Longevity’s pipeline now includes Cerevast’s experimental treatments for stroke and retinal vein occlusion, a common cause of blindness; Aegeria’s experimental product for soft-tissue reconstruction; and Novokera’s preclinical product for corneal blindness.
Longevity is developing treatments and products to “increase health span” for aging individuals, according to a statement Thursday announcing the SPAC deal.
Longevity will acquire all outstanding equity securities of the two other startups as part of the SPAC deal in exchange for shares of common stock of Longevity.
The combined company is expected to be valued at $236.2 million. The SPAC deal may also raise an additional $30 million through a pre-transaction PIPE (private investment in public equity).
“This has not been an easy one by any stretch,” Zakes said of the series of transactions. “It’s been a long time to get to this stage.”
Longevity’s management team pulls its chief technology officer, Francesco Curra, from Cerevast and its chief operating officer, Anthony Lee, from NovoKera. Longevity hired Brenda Sparks, previously the corporate controller at Cancer Prevention Pharmaceuticals, as chief financial officer.
Longevity is still planning the transition, but Zakes said some employees of the other startups will probably relocate to the Seattle area. Cerevast’s six employees are coming on board, and Longevity plans to hire more with proceeds from the SPAC merger, which is expected to fuel the company into 2025.
The investment bank US Tiger Securities is behind the shell company involved in the SPAC deal, Denali Capital Acquisition Corp., whose CEO is Lei Huang, CEO of Tiger Securities.
The deal comes during a massive downturn in tech and a cooling biotech market.
According to Endpoints News’ IPO tracker, last year only 25 biotech companies went public, 12 via a SPAC merger, compared to the 147 biotech companies that went public in 2021, 48 via SPAC. No biotech company has yet completed an IPO in 2023.
More than 55 SPAC transactions were also called off in 2022, including a deal involving Seattle startup Intrinsic Medicine.
Zakes is looking to the long term, with plans to acquire additional assets related to longevity.
“Our intention is to not stop with these core assets, but rather to continue to be very opportunistic and look for additional technologies, products, as well as partnerships with companies to broaden our portfolio,” said Zakes.
Zakes is a former executive at ICOS Corporation, a Seattle biotech company bought by Eli Lilly in 2007 for $2.3 billion. He was also previously president and CEO at ImaRx Therapeutics, whose assets were acquired by Cerevast at its launch in 2009, when he became CEO.
Longevity’s ultimate aim, said Zakes, is to become a “one-stop shop for consumers of longevity-related products and services.” The company also has its eye on the market in low- to middle-income countries.
The new startup enters a field that includes giant longevity biotech company Altos Labs, which is fueled by a $3 billion investment, and Calico Life Sciences, a subsidiary of Google parent company Alphabet. Longevity provides a unique set of technologies, said Zakes, including ultrasound technology developed by Cerevast. Longevity’s pipeline includes:
- A potential treatment for stroke that combines transcranial ultrasound with conventional anti-clotting therapy to break up clots and restore blood flow.
- A retinal vein occlusion treatment that combines ultrasound with gas-filled microspheres currently on the market; the microspheres expand and contract to help break up clots.
- A biosynthetic tissue scaffold that has the potential for use in soft tissue reconstruction to help fill out aging tissue or after surgery for breast cancer and other conditions.
- A biosynthetic cornea that has the potential to supplant current treatments, which involve transplantation with human corneas.
In the near term, Longevity plans to use the cash to complete a phase 3 study of its candidate for ischemic stroke, phase 2 studies for its candidates for retinal vein occlusion and soft tissue reconstruction, and complete preclinical studies for its biosynthetic cornea.