Capricor said today it agreed to be acquired by Nile Therapeutics for an undisclosed price, in a deal that creates a publicly traded drug developer that focuses on preventing and treating heart disease through regenerative medicine.

The combined company, to be called Capricor Therapeutics, will be led by the management team of today’s privately held Capricor, with CEO Linda Marban, Ph.D., holding the same position with the new company.

Capricor said the new company will offer Nile’s chimeric peptide cenderitide, a clinical-stage drug intended to treat patients following hospital discharge from acute episodes of heart failure, while continuing the acquired company’s development of cardiac stem cell therapeutics to repair damaged heart muscle.

Capricor’s lead product candidate CAP-1002 is an allogeneic adult stem cell therapy designed to attenuate and potentially improve cardiac damage that can result in heart failure. CAP-1002 is derived from donor heart tissue. Cells are expanded in the laboratory, then introduced directly into a patient’s heart via infusion into a coronary artery using standard cardiac catheterization techniques.

Capricor is recruiting patients to its Phase I/II ALLSTAR clinical trial, which involves 274 patients who have suffered large heart attacks. Phase I of the trial has been funded in part by an NIH grant while Phase II is partially funded in part by nearly $19.8 million in funds from the California Institute for Regenerative Medicine (CIRM), the Golden State’s stem cell agency. The CIRM award—from the agency’s Disease Team Therapy Development – Research program—is subject to repayment.

“The planned mid-stage trial will hopefully confirm that finding in a larger patient group and provide additional data to support the safety profile of the product,” Capricor stated in an abstract published on CIRM’s website. “The overriding goal for the product is to prevent patients who have had a heart attack from deteriorating over time and developing heart failure.”

“Capricor’s and Nile’s product portfolios complement each other well, as our therapies will address both the underlying causes and debilitating effects of heart disease,” Dr. Marban said in a statement.

Added Nile’s CEO Darlene Horton, M.D., in the statement: “The combined company should have better access to capital, more potential for steady pipeline development and more risk diversification.”

The boards of both companies have approved the deal, which is subject to shareholder approval; no timeframe was given for a closing.

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