LONDON  Phytopharm plc signed an agreement with Heska Corp. for the evaluation and development of botanical compounds for use in pets.

Terms of the deal were not disclosed, but in exchange for an undisclosed payment, Heska has obtained the right to evaluate one of Phytopharm¿s proprietary botanical compounds and an option to develop and market the compound for the animal health market in North America. If it takes up the option to license the compound, Heska, of Fort Collins, Colo., will pay licensing fees, milestones and royalties.

Richard Dixey, CEO of Phytopharm, which is based in Godmanchester, U.K., told BioWorld International the company already has ¿a lot of data on the compound, and we anticipate it will not take long before Heska decides if it will take up the option to license. There are as many companion animals as people in the U.S., and people are prepared to pay large amounts of money to treat them, so we expect this deal to produce substantial revenues in the near-term.¿ Dixey added that the Heska agreement is an attractive deal because it will diversify the company¿s sources of income.

Phytopharm is developing compounds to treat a number of chronic diseases in humans  drugs that Dixey believes could be relevant to animal health. ¿Companion animals tend to get the same diseases as their owners. In dogs the main problems are dog eczema, osteoarthritis and diabetes, and in cats feline influenza and diabetes,¿ he said.

¿We have been looking for agreements with animal health companies because there are synergies in working on the human product at the same time as the animal product,¿ he added. ¿It is very useful to establish the mode of action in animal models. Heska is a high-technology company which has developed some very sophisticated screens.¿

Dixey said the deal is also significant because it broadens out the licensing base of the company. In August, the company entered a deal with Pfizer Inc., of New York, for P57, an appetite suppressant derived from an extract of a South African plant. ¿This is spreading the message that a lot of our compounds are associated with novel pharmacology, and so rank alongside biotechnology products in terms of their patentability,¿ he said. There is interest from other potential partners for other compounds in the portfolio, he added.

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