Ocean Biomedical Chairman Chirinjeev Kathuria on Going Public Via SPAC
Ocean Biomedical Chairman Chirinjeev Kathuria
By IPO Edge Editorial Staff
Can you give me a brief description of what Ocean Biomedical does?
Ocean Biomedical, which will trade on the (NASDAQ: OCEA), is a next-generation biopharma company that is focused on bridging the ‘bench-to-bedside’ gap in medical research. We do that by accelerating the commercialization of innovative assets developed at research universities and medical centers. Our core portfolio is currently focused on oncology, fibrosis, and infectious disease, which will expand as a result of our close relationships with research institutions.
Ocean elevates the efforts of scientists at these institutions to ensure their discoveries advance through discovery to clinical trials, eventually reaching the hands of doctors and patients who need them.
Currently, the company’s portfolio is focused on three critical areas: oncology, pulmonary fibrosis, and infectious disease.
Non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) is the leading cause of cancer death and second most diagnosed cancer in the United States, affecting approximately 460,000 people in the U.S. alone.
Glioblastoma multiforme (GBM) is a lethal type of brain tumor with a single-digit five-year survival rate. It affects approximately 28,000 people in the U.S. alone.
CHI3L1 is a novel target and pathway discovery, the master checkpoint inhibitor, uncovered by the Ocean team. This novel, bispecific antibody approach generates strong anti-tumor response in both lung cancer and brain cancer, whether used in combination or as a monotherapy. Ocean Biomedical’s novel approach to tumor suppression, focused on controlling Chitinase 3-like-1 (CHI3L1), other immune checkpoint inhibitors, and T-cell co-stimulators, could control important pathways pan-cancer and has potential application for tumor suppression across multiple cancer pathways.
Idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis is a progressive disease that results in the irreversible loss of lung function with high morbidity and mortality rates. Its prevalence in the U.S. has been reported to range from 10-60 cases per 100,000 people, while in Europe it ranges from 1.3-32.5 cases per 100,000.
Hermansky-Pudlak Syndrome (HPS) is a rare, genetic disease with high prevalence occurring in Puerto Rico, with 1 case in every 1,800 people.
Ocean has identified a novel target and pathway discovery called Chitinase 1 (Chit1), as well as a potential inhibitor of this pathway called OCF-203. OCF-203 has been evaluated in multiple models of pulmonary fibrosis with impressive reductions in fibrosis. These discoveries hold potential for growth into other fibrotic diseases, including scleroderma, alcoholic liver disease, and NASH.
Malaria is a deadly disease with over 3 billion people at risk of infection annually worldwide. Each year, 200-300 million people are infected. It is the number one killer of children under five years old, with over 500,000 children under five killed each year.
Ocean’s proprietary platform for infectious diseases has yielded promising vaccine and therapeutic candidates for malaria, including the discovery of PfSEA-1 and PfGARP. These targets enable a promising new strategy for combating the disease. Moreover, the company’s drug target discovery platform has the potential to discover targets against other infectious diseases, like tuberculosis or another pandemic-type virus.
We’ve already begun with first-in-class drug and vaccine candidates, developed through past and ongoing grants totaling $123.9 million, which will serve large markets with tremendous unmet medical needs.
In this market, why have you decided to go public via a SPAC?
Going public has been our stated aim since 2021. While we explored the opportunity to IPO, we eventually determined that the SPAC transaction with publicly traded Aesther Healthcare (NYSE: AEHA) created greater value. In these volatile markets for IPOs, and biotech IPOs in particular, it was important to us to gain access to the public markets quickly and effectively.
We’re proud of the caliber of partners we’ve brought on as investors, and we structured the deal to give maximum value to those investors, including a three-year earn out if the stock price earns a certain value. This is beneficial not only to the stockholders of Ocean Biomedical, but also for the investors – something we weren’t able to do through a traditional IPO.
What is the bench-to-bedside gap?
A great amount of the important science in the world is birthed from academia and independent research institutions. Unfortunately, it’s a reality that amazing biopharma discoveries often get stuck in what we call the “Valley of Death.” Here, their cutting-edge properties work against them, as they give pause to investors seeking a sure thing when it comes to return on investment. Simultaneously, many discoveries simply get lost in a mire of bureaucracy.
At Ocean, we’re leveraging our professional and personal relationships to identify science which needs support, give it a home, and provide it with the resources needed for development and distribution to the world.
How are you differentiated from others in the biopharma space?
Ocean Biomedical really is a category of one as the parent company of three distinct biotechs – each individual platform could have a value from $345 million to almost $4.11 billion. We’ve been encouraged by the IPOs and private financings of programs comparable to ours that reflect strong market interest, but we believe we have a unique offering because we’re not developing a single asset – we instead have three platform assets. Our diversified pipeline addresses high-value and high-impact indications, and because of our existing and new pipelines in partnership with top universities and medical centers, we’ll continue to grow not only in the US, but also in Europe and Asia.
Why is the Company a strong investment?
We’ve got an innovative business model and, importantly, a world-class management team on board to execute it.Part of the reason we’re a preferred partner for the best investigators is because they know and respect our leadership. Moving forward, we’re going to continue to develop the best biopharma assets from key universities – that’s already shown to be true in oncology, fibrosis, and infectious disease. As we continue to demonstrate our capabilities as partners, investigators will continue to beat down our door to work with us.
Our numbers are also solid. We’ve got a near-term outsized value creation potential from our current pipeline. That’s because we’re addressing multiple, multi-billion-dollar unmet needs, and we’re de-risked and validated through $123.9M in on-dilutive grant funding that is ongoing.
This has led to a secure and growing runway to continue Ocean’s important innovations, with funding including:
A $40 million committed backstop by Vellar Opportunity Fund SPV LLC – Series 3
A Common Stock Purchase Agreement with White Lion Capital LLC, which provides that White Lion Capital is committed to purchase the company’s Common Stock with an aggregate gross purchase price of up to $75 million
Ultimately, our market cap is poised to grow based on the strength of our portfolio and our business compared to recent, comparable IPOs. Our portfolio in oncology could be comparable to Kinnate Biopharma with a market capitalization of $323 million; our portfolio in fibrosis could be comparable to Pliant Therapeutics with a market capitalization of $1.99 billion; our portfolio in infectious disease could be comparable to Vir Biotechnology with a market capitalization of $4.11 billion.
What is your vision for Ocean Biomedical moving forward?
We believe that Ocean Biomedical has the leadership and the assets to help change the course of humanity. 10 years from now, we believe the discoveries that we’ve already made within our platforms will prevent people from dying of cancer and will have solved malaria – the number one killer in young children around the world. Those are just two elements of our pipeline. Given the inherent dynamism of our business model, everything from leukemia to scleroderma to diabetes will be investigated in the future.
First and foremost, Ocean Biomedical has and will continue to serve patients with some of the most devastating illnesses we face as humans today. This mission is what gets us up in the morning, and we take this responsibility seriously. We look forward to doubling down on this vision, propelling medical innovation as quickly, responsibly, and efficiently as possible.