Fast-growing Aratana beefs up pet drug pipeline with a $44M buyout

An acquisitive Aratana Therapeutics is buying another biotech, beefing up its pipeline of experimental therapies for pets. Just a few months after closing a deal to buy Vet Therapeutics for a mix of cash, stock and a promissory note, the Kansas City, KS-based company has sealed the deal to buy Belgium's Okapi Sciences for $14 million down plus another $31 million in a near-term note plus a mix of cash and stock.

Aratana ($PETX) says Okapi has 5 clinical-stage antivirals in development for animals. Aratana is bringing in a team from Okapi to pursue the work, which includes a lead program for what promises to be the first antiviral approved specifically for animals. The antiviral targets ocular disease caused by feline herpesvirus in cats and is already partnered with Novartis Animal Health.

"We are excited to complete this strategic acquisition, which significantly expands our European presence and broadens and diversifies our portfolio," Aratana CEO Steven St. Peter says in a statement. "We will continue to nurture the relationships Okapi has forged with leading universities in Europe such as KU Leuven. This transaction reiterates Aratana's commitment to advancing innovative molecules and bringing them to market to improve the lives of pets."

Aratana went public last year but failed to catch fire with investors until it followed up with the deal to buy Vet. The company's shares were up about 4% this morning.

- here's the press release

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