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      Aratana Therapeutics buys health product licenses from RaQualia Pharma

      Posted Atbizjournals.com

      Aratana Therapeutics Inc. has bought the licenses for two Japanese products to develop the compounds for companion animal use.

      Aratana — a local animal health company co-founded by Steven St. Peter of MPM Capital — bought two licenses currently intended for human use from RaQualia Pharma Inc. The Japanese company will receive an initial payment as well as installments for development milestones and royalties.

      Although the purchase prices were not announced, Aratana President Dr. David Rosen said the $20 million that kicked the company off in January would take the two products from the current stage to market, which is about four years down the road.

      Aratana will hire 10 to 12 people during the next couple of years to handle the development of the two therapies. Rosen said he plans to have the employees work out of Aratana’s Kansas City, Kan., office — which it shares with MPM Capital and Global Prairie at 1901 Olathe Blvd. — and recruit heavily from the area.

      Aratana’s two employees, Rosen and CEO Dr. Linda Rhodes, operate out of their homes on the East Coast but travel to Kansas City often.

      RaQualia owns about 19 percent of Aratana, Rosen said.

      The first compound Aratana will develop for companion animal use is supposed to reduce pain without becoming addictive or blocking enzymes that are helpful to the body — both problems with the two main pain-relieving options on the market today, Rosen said.

      The other compound helps encourage eating and increases strength, which would be beneficial to pets with cancer or recovering from surgery, for example.

      “These novel compounds fit perfectly with the business model I was trying to build for Aratana,” Rosen said.

      That model involves taking proven but beginning-stage technologies used for humans and adapting them for animal use. The model, Rosen said, will take 20 percent less money and 25 percent less time to market than current animal health technologies.

      Rosen helped found RaQualia while he was the head of out-licensing for Pfizer Inc. The Japanese company started in July 2008 and raised $110 million in venture capital. It is planning an initial public offering toward the end of March, Rosen said.

      He said there wasn’t a conflict of interest in buying the licenses from a company he helped start because he doesn’t own any part of the company.

      Rather than a conflict, he said, buying the RaQualia compounds creates a synergy between the company and Aratana and gives him confidence in the company’s first two products.

      RaQualia CEO Dr. Atsushi Nagahisa said in a release that working with Aratana to develop animal health products is an “excellent opportunity for RaQualia.”

      “Our strategy is to consider innovative treatments for use in both human and animal health, and Aratana Therapeutics will provide a powerful engine to realize these opportunities in the animal-health sector,” he said in the release.

      Mar 07, 2011


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