Juvenescence scoops-up new longevity IP

Juvenescence CEO reveals why its deal with Portage is the smart choice for its longevity IP portfolio.

Portage Biotech Inc, a clinical-stage immuno-oncology company accelerating research and development to overcome immune resistance, has announced the divestment of its three legacy businesses, Portage Pharmaceuticals Limited (PPL) and its subsidiaries, Portage Glasgow Ltd and EyGen Ltd, to Juvenescence Ltd.

Longevity.Technology: Portage’s business strategy means it is focusing on its pipeline of immuno-oncology platforms. This divestment means Portage will no longer have the expense of maintaining its longevity-related areas of the business, which currently do not complement the company’s area of focus. However, there is a future potential windfall in the offing, especially as Juvenescence have become such a powerhouse in the age-related industry. The divestment is also a canny move by Juvenescence as this will increase its value before its proposed IPO, which is slated to be later this year.

In exchange for the assets, the out-licensing agreement states that Portage may be entitled to receive up to $244 million in future milestone payments based on specified development criteria. The Company will also be eligible to receive royalties in the future on global net sales of products developed utilising the PPL intellectual property.

Keen to tease out Juvenescence’s rationale for the acquisition, Longevity.Technology spoke to CEO Dr Greg Bailey.

“It’s a very opportune situation,” Bailey told us. “Firstly, it enables us to develop a relationship with the University of Glasgow, who are skilled at creating active cargoes that can be taken into the body, or the cell for therapeutic purposes – that’s fantastic for us.
“Secondly, PPL have a senolytic, p53, which we are excited to test and which fits well with an existing situation we have with Fox Bio; they have a number of assays and markers, so we can quickly test the senolytic. This senolytic was a compelling reason for our acquisition.

“Our third reason is the extension of the actual technology; a humanised version of Antennapedia, a peptide that enables transport in the fruit fly, which lacks a vascular system. This peptide moves so easily between the tissues, it has been described as a ghost, and it can move larger molecules across the cell membrane, even molecules as big as IGG [Immunoglobulin G, a type of antibody]; we are intrigued to see what we can do with that delivery system.”

In terms of increasing Juvenescence’s already-sizeable footprint in the longevity space, acquiring Portage appears a smart choice.

“Adding to our drug delivery systems is always a good move,” said Bailey, “and it’s no secret how valuable a potent senolytic would be. There won’t be just one winner, as different companies will have the best senolytic for different conditions. We like the model and it’s definitely compelling, so the next step is vetting it.

The relationship to get really accurate cargoes is very important, because an area that we are very interested in getting into is gene transfer. Of course, other companies own the delivery systems, whether it’s CRISPR, or zinc fingers. So, the only way we can get in is by finding exciting cargoes – and that’s an opportunity to work with the University of Glasgow.”

Dr Ian Walters, chief executive officer of Portage, commented, “We are dedicated to the continued development of our immuno-oncology pipeline and the progression of our three products in clinical testing. Today’s transaction reflects this commitment and enables us to direct both our personnel and capital resources towards our immuno-oncology programs while maintaining upside in the event that the assets developed using PPL’s intellectual property are successfully commercialized [1].”

This transaction is considered a related party transaction within the meaning of Multilateral Instrument 61-101 Protection of Minority Security Holders in Special Transactions (“MI 61-101”). The Company is relying on appropriate exemptions from the formal valuation and minority shareholder approval requirements of MI 61-101 in respect of these issuances.
Image courtesy of Juvenescence