CRO SillaJen is acquiring San Francisco-based Jennerex, a biotech firm that develops targeted oncolytic immunotherapies for solid tumors. The firms say the total consideration for the transaction—made in all cash—could reach approximately $150 million, including potential future milestone payments.

Jennerex will become a subsidiary of SillaJen after the merger, but it will keep its name and remain headquartered in San Francisco, CA. The acquisition is expected to close in the first quarter of 2014.

Co-CEO of SillaJen Eun-Sang Moon, M.D., D.D.S., said in a statement that the firm is especially interested in Jennerex’ lead asset, Pexa-Vec (JX-594, pexastimogene devacirepvec), a vaccinia-derived therapeutic that demonstrated an overall survival advantage as a first-line therapy for patients with advanced hepatocellular carcinoma in a Phase II trial published in Nature Medicine in February 2013—results that are promising enough to warrant a future Phase III trial. Dr. Moon also reported that Pexa-Vec has also shown promising activity in colorectal and kidney cancers, including two patients with complete tumor responses in the latter case.

As published in Nature, Pexa-Vec is also the only agent in this therapeutic class that can reproducibly target and destroy tumors by intravenous administration, a key point of differentiation and competitive advantage,” Dr. Moon said. “We believe this strategic acquisition both provides SillaJen immediate global leadership in the emerging and exciting field of oncolytic immunotherapy, and is consistent with our mission of bringing innovative biotherapeutics to cancer patients worldwide.”

Wedbush PacGrow Life Sciences is acting as financial advisor to SillaJen, while Latham & Watkins is serving as legal advisor. Centerview Partners and Gunderson Dettmer Stough Villeneuve Franklin & Hachigian are acting as financial and legal advisors to Jennerex, respectively.

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