US-based Portage Biotech is cash-strapped and has started looking for strategic alternatives including a wind-down of the company.

The company stated that the decision for strategic review was based on Portage’s analysis of the current funding climate and its future funding needs. Portage stated that it is open to exploring a number of strategic alternatives including partnerships for developing its assets, a potential sale of its assets, merger, restructurings, company wind down or sale. The company added that it does not have a timetable for finding a path forward.

Furthermore, Portage is pausing enrolment in the Phase I ADPORT-601 trial (NCT04969315) of two of its adenosine receptor antagonists, PORT-6 and PORT-7, in patients with solid tumours. Portage acquired the adenosine 2A inhibitor, PORT-6 (previously known as TT-10), and adenosine 2B inhibitor, PORT-7 (previously known as TT-4), as part of the 2022 Taurus Therapeutics’ acquisition.

The programme pause comes three months after the company announced plans to collaborate with Merck & Co (MSD) to evaluate the combinations of PORT-6 and PORT-7 with MSD’s anti-PD1 therapy, Keytruda (pembrolizumab). At the same time, Portage also paused its PORT-2 invariant natural killer T-cell (iNKT) programme citing a lack of funding. The company added that it will reduce its workforce and the remaining employees will focus primarily on the adenosine clinical programmes.

The pharma and biotech industry has had difficulty raising funding in the past few months; even the top pharma companies are not immune to the harsh market. Earlier this month, Novartis announced plans to lay off approximately 680 staff members in its development organisation across the US and Switzerland over the next two to three years.

Xilio Therapeutics also laid off 21% of its employees and terminated the development of its tumour-activated beta-gamma biased interleukin (IL)-2 therapy, XTX202, earlier this month. In January, Ikena Oncology announced plans to reduce its staff by 35% and funnel its resources into advancing its lead oncology assets, IK-930 and IK-595.

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In November 2023, US-based Rani Therapeutics announced workforce reduction and pipeline reprioritisation. The company fired 25% of its staff, discontinued the development of its RT-101 programme and paused work on the RT-105 and RT-110 programmes. Other companies that laid off employees in the past year include Atreca, Candel Therapeutics, Kinnate Bio and NexImmune.