Portage targets adenosine pathway with Tarus acquisition

Portage Biotech will gain four assets targeting various aspects of the adenosine pathway through the acquisition of Tarus Therapeutics.

The agreement to acquire adenosine receptor development firm Tarus for an upfront payment of $21 million “will allow Portage to expand [its] capabilities of developing first-in-class immuno-oncology treatments for patients with cancer,” Ian Walters, CEO of Portage told BioProcess Insider.

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Under the terms of the deal, Portage will gain four new assets acquired from Tarus:

  • TT-10 (now PORT-6):an adenosine receptor type 2A (A2A) inhibitor to treat solid tumors. It has been granted IND clearance and the company anticipates that it will move into a Phase I/II clinical trial by the end of this year.
  • TT-4 (now PORT-7): an adenosine receptor type 2B (A2B) inhibitor to treat solid tumors, clinical development is expected to begin in 2023 and it has also received IND clearance.
  • TT-53 (now PORT-8):a dual inhibitor of adenosine receptors 2A and 2B (A2A/A2B), which aims to treat solid tumors. Portage plans to submit an IND soon.
  • TT-3 (now PORT-9): a gut selective A2B inhibitor to treat gastrointestinal cancers, which is currently in preclinical studies.

According to Portage, the ability to evaluate all four investigational drugs alone or together will establish the best patient populations and oncology/non-oncology settings to make use of the adenosine pathway.

“Studies suggest that targeting the A2A and A2B receptors in cancers where adenosine is highly expressed could reduce immunosuppression and improve immune response to tumors, potentially reducing cancer progression and improving outcomes for patients. Our four newly acquired assets from Tarus Therapeutics will enable a comprehensive exploration of how targeting different aspects of the adenosine pathway could improve response in multiple cancer and non-cancer indications,” said Walters.

Staffing needs

Robert Glassman, executive vice president of search and evaluation at Enavate Sciences of Tarus will join the Portage board of directors. Additionally, the firm has consulting agreements with the management of Tarus, which has the potential to transition into employment.

“As we continue to advance the adenosine programs and broader pipeline, we will continue to evaluate our staffing needs,” Walter told us.

“Portage’s unique business model is designed to be orchestrated by a small core team supported by a broad array of external players and partners, including CMOs and other biotech and pharma companies. As the pipeline programs advance, we will also continue to expand our partnerships in ways that can more rapidly benefit all of our stakeholders, including patients.”

Additional payments of up to $32 million in cash or Portage shares are dependent on future development and sales milestones.