Rare Daily Staff

Proteon Therapeutics and ArTara Therapeutics have entered into a definitive agreement in which a wholly-owned subsidiary of Proteon will merge with ArTara in an all-stock transaction.

Concurrent with the reverse merger, a syndicate of healthcare investors has agreed to invest $42.5 million in the combined company to help fund the development of ArTara’s lead assets TARA-002 and IV Choline Chloride.

Under the terms of the merger agreement, current Proteon stockholders will own approximately 10 percent of the combined company, while ArTara shareholders and new investors will own approximately 90 percent.  The combined company will be led by Jesse Shefferman, ArTara CEO.

The merged company will focus on advancing ArTara’s pipeline of late-stage, de-risked, rare and specialty diseases assets. The combined company will operate under the name ArTara Therapeutics and trade on the Nasdaq Capital Market under the ticker symbol TARA.

ArTara is a clinical stage therapeutics company focused on acquiring and developing high-potential, de-risked product candidates for rare and specialty diseases. ArTara’s current development programs focus on the treatment of rare diseases in structural and connective tissues, as well as rare hepatology and metabolic disorders.

ArTara’s lead program, TARA-002, is a follow-on biologic of the innovator therapy OK-432, an inactivated Group A streptococcus bacterial preparation developed by Chugai and approved in Japan for the treatment of lymphangiomas along with several other specialty indications.

ArTara plans to pursue development of TARA-002 for the treatment of lymphangiomas, which are rare, typically congenital, malformations of the lymphatic vasculature.  OK-432 has been interrogated in dozens of additional indications through investigator-sponsored studies around the world and ArTara will conduct preliminary investigations into a number of these indications after advancing the lymphangiomas program.

ArTara’s second asset, IV choline chloride, has shown promising results in a phase 2a study in intestinal failure associated liver disease (IFALD).  IV choline chloride is a phospholipid substrate replacement therapy for choline deficient patients with hepatic steatosis and have has been awarded Orphan Drug designation by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration for lymphangiomas. 

Proteon had begun looking at strategic alternatives in March after its lead therapy failed in a late-stage trial for chronic kidney disease. Its shares, which had debuted in a 2014 IPO at $10, risen as high as $20, are now trading at $0.44.

“We are excited about the opportunity for this merger, which will allow ArTara to help fill the void in treatment options for these two rare diseases and potentially address additional significant unmet need in other disease areas,” said Jesse Shefferman, CEO of ArTara.

Photo: Jesse Shefferman, CEO of ArTara

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