Aratana charts positive results for canine pain drug, predicts 2016 launch

Just two weeks after announcing that its experimental appetite stimulator for dogs performed well in a pivotal clinical trial, Aratana Therapeutics ($PETX) drew applause from investors Tuesday afternoon with another piece of good news. The company's drug for relieving postsurgical pain in dogs, AT-003, also succeeded in a pivotal trial. Aratana plans to file for FDA approval and expects to be able to launch the drug next year.

AT-003 is an extended-release version of bupivacaine liposome injectable suspension, which Aratana licensed from Pacira Pharmaceuticals ($PCRX). During the trial, dogs received the drug while undergoing knee surgery. They showed statistically significant improvements in pain as compared to dogs who received a placebo, according to a press release from the company.

Shares of Aratana briefly soared in after-hours trading from $16.77 a share to $19.05 before settling back a bit to $17.90. The stock has advanced 25% since July 1.

Aratana CEO Steven St. Peter

Clearly, investors are starting to see a potential path to profitability for Aratana. During the first quarter, the company brought in $156,000 in sales from its first product, AT-005 for T-cell lymphoma in dogs, and its year-over-year loss narrowed from $9.1 million to $8.8 million. But sales of AT-005 and Aratana's other lymphoma drug, AT-004, have been limited as the company works to build up its manufacturing capacity. Aratana CEO Steven St. Peter told investors in May to expect a full launch of the lymphoma franchise in 2016.

In late June, Aratana announced that capromorelin (AT-002), its experimental appetite stimulator for dogs, met its expected endpoints in a pivotal clinical trial. If all goes well at the FDA, the company might also be able to launch that drug in 2016.

Aratana continues to build up its pipeline, investing recently in a treatment for periodontal disease in dogs and cats and moving several compounds into pivotal trials, including an immunotherapy drug to treat canine osteosarcoma. But investors have been looking for signs that the company is successfully transitioning from an R&D house to a full a commercial player, and judging from the response to the latest piece of good news from the late-stage pipeline, they seem to be optimistic.

- here's the press release