Deal is potentially worth $420 million to Portola.

Merck & Co. is paying $50 million for  exclusive, worldwide rights to Portola Pharmaceuticals’ mid-stage stroke candidate, betrixaban. Portola is eligible to receive up to $420 million upon the achievement of certain development, regulatory, and commercialization milestones. The firm is also entitled to double-digit royalties on worldwide sales of betrixaban, if approved.

Merck will assume all development and commercialization costs. Portola has retained an option to co-fund Phase III trials in return for additional royalties. It also has the option to co-promote betrixaban in the U.S.

Betrixaban is an oral Factor Xa inhibitor anticoagulant being studied for the prevention of stroke in patients with atrial fibrillation.

“This is the second major collaboration we have announced this year validating the high quality of our drug candidates and the expertise of our research and development team,” points out Charles Homcy, M.D., president and CEO of Portola. “This represents a significant milestone for the company, and we now have over $175 million in cash to further advance the rest of our valuable proprietary pipeline.”

Elinogrel, its P2Y12 ADP receptor antagonist in Phase II trials as an anticlotting agent, was licensed to Novartis in February for $75 million up front. Development, regulatory, and sales milestones could reach $500 million. Portola’s remaining pipeline is in the preclinical stage.

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