Are European investors catching on to the value of animal health?

Serge Goldner

Swiss animal health startup Gour Medical is working on allergy and anxiety treatments for pets, and founder Serge Goldner is confident his company will close a Series A funding round of CHF3 million ($3.3 million) by the end of the year. But he's also cognizant of the challenges he's facing as he tries to turn European investors on to the value of animal health.

"The U.S. is lucky that people want to invest in this new area," Goldner he said in a recent interview with Animal Pharm. "That's not yet the case in Europe--investors want to see revenues and they want to better understand the business opportunity. Investors see animal health as a new area."

Gour was launched last summer as a virtual company funded via a convertible loan. In March, it formed a licensing agreement with Actelion Pharmaceuticals to develop one of that company's dual orexin receptor antagonists to reduce anxiety in dogs. Actelion had been working with GlaxoSmithKline ($GSK) on orexin receptor antagonists to treat insomnia in people, but the work seemed to have been put on the back burner after the companies revealed safety issues in 2011. Gour acquired one of Actelion's abandoned molecules and has been conducting proof-of-concept trials this year.

Gour is also conducting proof-of-concept studies on a monoclonal antibody it is developing in a partnership it formed in May with the French National Center for Scientific Research. The company plans to develop the molecule to treat dogs with atopic dermatitis.

Goldner told Animal Pharm he intends to outlicense the monoclonal antibody technology to a development partner if the proof-of-concept research succeeds. The company also plans to develop over-the-counter drugs and nutritional products, and Goldner hopes to find commercial partners in the U.S. for those endeavors, he said.

Goldner said he was inspired to start Gour after reading about the financial opportunities in animal health as they were presented in the prospectuses for Zoetis ($ZTS) and Aratana Therapeutics ($PETX). Both companies are players in atopic dermatitis, too: Aratana formed a partnership with Atopix last year to develop a CRTH2 antagonist to treat the disease, and there was such high demand for Zoetis's new dermatitis drug, Apoquel, that it ran into a supply shortage.

Gour's Goldner said he's unaware of other biotech companies in Europe focused entirely on animal health but he anticipated rivals would come on the scene soon. "It's a big business opportunity," he said.

- here's the Animal Pharm story (sub. req.)