Portage raids fellow biotech Tarus for adenosine receptor treasures

In a case of biotech-on-biotech M&A action, Portage Biotech will acquire Tarus Therapeutics and its haul of adenosine receptor antagonists.

Westport, Connecticut-based Portage will hand over 2.4 million of its shares in the deal and take on $3 million of liabilities. In return, it will take ownership of Tarus’ four adenosine receptors, including adenosine receptor type 2A inhibitor PORT-6, which has cleared FDA approval to move into a phase 1/2 clinical trial in solid tumors by the end of the year.

The plunder also includes two other assets for solid tumor: an adenosine receptor type 2B inhibitor called PORT-7, which has been cleared to enter the clinic next year, and a dual 2A and 2B inhibitor called PORT-8 for which the biotech plans to file a trial application in the near future.

The only therapy not aimed at solid tumors is PORT-9, a gut-selective A2B inhibitor that is in preclinical development for gastrointestinal cancers.

The deal places Portage in “a unique position to evaluate the role of adenosine in cancer and other diseases,” the Canadian biotech said. “Having the ability to evaluate all four compounds alone or in combination will unlock the best patient populations and best disease settings (oncology and non-oncology) to leverage the adenosine pathway.”

The company is also liable to make milestone payments totaling up to $23 million in shares or cash depending on future development and sales. Robert Glassman, M.D., Ph.D., current executive vice president of search and evaluation at Enavate Sciences and former independent director of Tarus, will also join Portage’s board of directors

Alongside the acquisition of Tarus, Portage entered into a committed share purchase agreement with Chicago-based institutional investor Lincoln Park Capital Fund LLC. The agreement gives the biotech the right to sell up to $30 million of its shares to the investor over a 36-month period.

“This commitment helps support the incremental development costs for the adenosine programs, and also provides significant financial flexibility for advancement of Portage’s existing pipeline of novel immunotherapy treatments, potentially extending Portage’s total cash runway into 2024,” the biotech said.

The acquisitions from Tarus will add to Portage’s existing portfolio, which includes the iNKT agonist IMM60 in phase 1/2 trials for melanoma and non-small cell lung cancer as well as a pair of adenosine inhibitors in phase 1 trials for solid tumors.