Acquisition writes a new chapter for Piedmont
Greensboro-based Piedmont Animal Health, an innovator of more than 30 pet medicines sold by major global brands, has been sold to Dechra Pharmaceuticals of Northwich, England, for $210 million in cash.
The acquisition writes a new chapter for Piedmont and its 19-person staff after two decades of developing, launching or marketing companion-animal health products across the world.
“The Dechra acquisition is about two things: our companion animal pharmaceutical product pipeline and our team of specialized pharmaceutical research and development experts based in Greensboro,” said Eric Barnett, M.D., outgoing chief executive officer of Piedmont. “Both are important since it’s the people who drive innovation. Dechra has already announced that they are targeting another acquisition in animal health, which makes me feel confident that the future looks bright for innovation in Greensboro.”
Founded as Piedmont Pharmaceuticals in 2001 by serial entrepreneur Roland Johnson, the company was originally focused on developing products in human pharmaceuticals butb expanded into companion-animal health. The two businesses were formally split in 2017.
With Dechra’s acquisition of the animal health business, Barnett is now fully focused on developing the human health business, recently rebranded as Ocaro Pharmaceuticals.
“We have big plans in human health with more news on that to come soon,” said Barnett, Ocaro’s chief executive officer.
Long involvement with NC Biotech
In 2003, when Piedmont was in start-up mode and financing was tight, the North Carolina Biotechnology Center provided a $150,000 loan, which Johnson said came at a critical time in the young company’s development.
The funding helped Piedmont develop a head lice treatment, which generated the company’s first product revenues and positioned it to attract venture capital and angel investments.
“This acquisition validates the strength of home-grown life sciences entrepreneurs and their teams’ brain power to drive innovative solutions,” said Nancy Johnston, executive director of the Biotech Center’s Piedmont Triad Office. “It is no surprise that a company known for many industry firsts in a global marketplace would attract this level of investment. It is an exciting opportunity for additional engagement and growth.”
Piedmont went on to raise $9.5 million in financing from angel investors and an Australian venture capital company. Piedmont repaid the Biotech Center loan and has been self-funded ever since.
Though a small company, Piedmont has had a big influence on the Triad’s life sciences community, Johnston noted. Roland Johnson, Piedmont’s founder, was involved in the establishment of the Biotech Center’s Piedmont Triad Office and received the inaugural Triad BioNight Entrepreneurial Excellence Award in 2005. Michael Kelly, Piedmont’s chief operating officer and chief financial officer until his retirement in December 2021, is chair of the Biotech Center’s Advisory Committee for Biotechnology in the Piedmont Triad.
Piedmont’s strengths in product formulation, regulatory navigation, and research planning and execution earned it commercial partnerships with the world’s largest animal health companies.
Thosel partners have included Boehringer Ingelheim Animal Health, Ceva Santé Animale, Elanco, Merck Animal Health, Vetoquinol and others.
Piedmont is best known for its patented platform for soft-chew therapeutics.
Using a household KitchenAid mixer, Piedmont’s chemists experimented with soft, chewy cubes that could be stably infused with active pharmaceutical ingredients. The meat-free chewables are made without water, heat or an extrusion process, so active ingredients are protected. They can be used to administer a variety of medications to dogs or cats hassle free.
To pets, the chunks are delicious treats. To veterinarians and pet owners, the chewables are a welcomed alternative to pushing pills down animals’ throats.
Piedmont teamed with Bayer Animal Health on canine chewables including Advantus, a flea medicine, and Quellin, a pain reliever and anti-inflammatory.
The acquisition of Piedmont will give Dechra a stronger ability to innovate in the companion animal sector, particularly in dermatology, pain management and anti-infectives, and will add a pipeline of complementary products, according to a summary of the deal published by IHS Markit.
If approved, Piedmont’s two lead development products are expected to launch in 2024 and 2025 with an expected peak sales potential of at least $40 million in aggregate. “Each of the products in the remainder of the portfolio are significant and are expected to be well within Dechra’s top 20 products by sales, with one having a significantly higher potential,” Dechra said.
Piedmont has eight companion animal product candidates in various stages of development including a biologic for chronic kidney disease in cats. The drug candidate, developed in collaboration with Wake Forest University, has received the new expanded conditional approval designation from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, because it potentially represents a first-in-class product for an unmet need.
Dechra said that initial product registrations from Piedmont would be focused on the North American and European markets.
Dechra is a global company specializing in veterinary pharmaceuticals and related products. It has nearly 2,000 employees worldwide including those at U.S. sites in Florida, Kansas and Maine.
The publicly held company has about 5,700 product registrations and distributes products in 68 countries.