LENZ Therapeutics has signed a definitive agreement to merge with Graphite Bio in an all-stock deal to form a late clinical-stage biopharmaceutical company.

The merged company’s lead programmes focus on treating presbyopia. 

Graphite Bio also signed a subscription agreement to obtain private investment in public equity (PIPE) funding of $53.5m. 

The PIPE funding will be led by current and new investors in LENZ. 

The combined business is projected to have cash or cash equivalents of $225m at the deal closing.

Following the merger, Graphite Bio will be renamed LENZ Therapeutics Inc and will have its corporate headquarters in San Diego, US. 

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LENZ Therapeutics president and CEO Eef Schimmelpennink will lead the merged company. 

Schimmelpennink stated: “I am pleased to announce our merger with Graphite Bio, allowing us to create a publicly traded company focused on the advancement of LENZ’s lead programmes, LNZ100 and LNZ101, for the treatment of presbyopia. 

“This pivotal change comes at an important time for the company as we gear up for the readout of the Phase III CLARITY trials in the second quarter of 2024. 

“We believe that a once-daily pharmacological eye drop that can effectively and safely improve near vision throughout the full workday, without the need for reading glasses, will be a highly attractive commercial product with an estimated US market opportunity in excess of $3bn.” 

The merger and funding proceeds will facilitate the combined business to continue to build infrastructure and LENZ’s lead product candidate.

The boards of directors of LENZ Therapeutics and Graphite Bio both unanimously approved the merger, which will conclude in the first quarter of 2024.