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Tuesday, June 16, 2020

Tocagen (TOCA) and Forte Biosciences merge; trade as Forte Biosciences (FBRX)

Tocagen Inc. (Nasdaq: TOCA), and Forte Biosciences, Inc., a privately held clinical-stage biopharmaceutical company developing a live biotherapeutic for the treatment of inflammatory skin diseases, announced today that they have entered into a definitive agreement under which Tocagen will merge with Forte in an all-stock transaction.

The merged company will focus on advancing Forte's clinical program in inflammatory skin diseases, including atopic dermatitis. The combined company operates under the name Forte Biosciences and trades on the Nasdaq Capital Market under the ticker symbol FBRX.

Paul Wagner, CEO

Tocagen was a struggling brain cancer biotech whose huge Phase III failure triggered mass layoffs at the company.

Forte Biosciences is a biotech tackling atopic dermatitis and other inflammatory skin diseases.

Three years years ago, Tocagen went public and raised $85 million on the promise of a two-part therapy for glioblastoma. Part 1 used a vector to attack cancer cells and deliver the gene for an enzyme and Part 2 was a prodrug that converts into an anti-cancer drug. It was an intriguing approach to a deadly indication that has evaded most previous attempts, but in September, in its biggest test, the two-part therapy showed all but no signs of working.

In fact, patients on the control arm lived a month longer on average than patients on the drug arm, 12.2 vs 11.1. That computed to a hazard ratio of 1.06 and a p-value of 0.62. The company’s stock dropped 81% on the announcement, and a month later they cut 65% of their workforce, leaving the San Diego-based biotech with just 30 employees.

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