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Halifax-based Panag Pharma, a maker of pain-relief products from natural compounds found in cannabis plants, has agreed to be bought for as much as $27 million by Ontario’s Tetra Bio-Pharma.

Based in the Ottawa suburb of Orleans, Tetra is a drug discovery company that specializes in developing treatments based on such compounds, known as cannabinoid-based drug discovery.

The company, which is listed on the TSX Venture Exchange, said in a news release that the acquisition will allow Tetra to develop more natural healthcare products and sell them world wide.

The Panag Team — led by healthcare professionals Mary Lynch, Melanie Kelly, Bill Cheliak, Orlando Hung and Christian Lehmann — will continue to conduct research into cannabinoid-based treatments for Tetra, and receive extra payments for hitting specific milestones. The buyer said it believes it will gain revenues from Panag’s products by late 2019.

“We have been working with Panag for over a year and as a combined entity we will have a robust product pipeline of cannabinoid-derived drugs for development as prescription or OTC (over-the-counter) drugs,” said Tetra CEO and chief science officer Guy Chamberland in a statement. “Tetra is not just acquiring assets and intellectual property, we are joining a group of world-renowned cannabinoid experts that will help take Tetra to the next level as a pharmaceutical company.”

The Panag owners will receive $3 million in cash and $9 million in Tetra stock at the time of the purchase, which is expected by the end of 2018. Tetra shares have risen 54 per cent in the past year, giving the company a market value of $152 million.

The statement said the agreement “contemplates the payment” of as much as $15 million in cash to the Panag owners as long as they hit specific milestones. These involve regulatory approvals and commercialization of both human and veterinary drug products.

Panag has been a quiet but persistent member of the life sciences community in Halifax, and has had some success in startup competitions. The company won $50,000 in Innovacorp’s Spark competition earlier this year and was a finalist in the I-3 competition in 2015.

“The timing (of the acquisition) is perfect as there is an urgent need for non-opioid medications to treat pain and inflammation,” said Hung in the statement. “We expect the Panag-Tetra Bio-Pharma combined portfolio of cannabinoid products to play a significant role in the management of pain and inflammation.”

Two members of the Panag team — Cheliak and Gregory Drohan — are already members of the Tetra board. In fact, Cheliak is the Tetra chairman. He is a serial entrepreneur who is also the CEO of another Halifax drug-discovery company, Chelation Partners. The statement said Cheliak and Drohan will not receive stock-based payments for their Panag shares.

Tetra’s year-old agreement with Panag did not include access to the Halifax company’s portfolio of natural health products. With the acquisition, the buyer will now gain access to these products.

“Panag will bring Tetra Natural Health a unique pipeline of products, thereby strengthening our role as a key player in the cannabinoid wellness market,” said Richard Giguere, CEO of Tetra Natural Health. “We look forward to working with Panag to commercialize these products globally and expect to generate revenues from these products by Q4 2019 following completion of the acquisition.”

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