Aratana misses Q3 sales targets, refocuses priorities on pain and appetite drugs

Aratana CEO Steven St. Peter

Aratana Therapeutics ($PETX) reported a net loss of $54.4 million or $1.58 per share in the third quarter, on sales that came in slightly below analysts' estimates, at $200,000. The sales came from AT-005 to treat T-cell lymphoma, which was the first of two cancer drugs that investors had been pinning their hopes on--until recently, that is. During the earnings announcement, Aratana CEO Steven St. Peter urged investors to focus less on the company's cancer pipeline and more on its drugs to treat pain and appetite issues in dogs.

The low sales figure wasn't entirely surprising, since St. Peter had already warned investors that AT-005 and Aratana's second lymphoma drug, AT-004 for the B-cell form of the disease, were not performing as well as the company had hoped in limited distribution. The late-September announcement sent the company's shares plummeting nearly 40% in a day. AT-005, Aratana said, is not enhancing progression-free survival when compared to placebo. AT-004 is still in trials, but the company plans to develop second-generation lymphoma drugs in a bid to capture a more meaningful slice of the market.

Still, St. Peter made a bold promise to investors in the third-quarter earnings release. "Our portfolio of pet therapeutics continues to move through the regulatory process and if successful, we expect to bring an unprecedented number of innovative products to veterinarians and pet owners beginning in 2016," he said.

Among Aratana's top priorities now is AT-003, a drug for treating postsurgical pain in dogs that is an extended-release version of Pacira Pharmaceuticals' ($PCRX) bupivacaine liposome injectable suspension. The company said today it is working with the FDA, and if the drug is approved it will begin marketing it in late 2016.

Aratana's AT-002 (capromorelin) to stimulate appetite in dogs should be submitted to the FDA for approval in early 2016, the company says, with possible commercialization starting mid-year. Aratana also anticipates applying for FDA approval of AT-001 (grapiprant) to treat osteoarthritis pain in dogs in the first quarter of next year, in the hopes of bringing it to market next fall.

Aratana is working with European regulators on all three drugs, as well, the company said. St. Peter said in the earnings announcement that the company was looking to form a partnership outside the U.S. to help shuttle those therapies onto the European market.

The company also updated investors on several drugs that are further back in its pipeline. It said it discontinued an investigational drug for parvovirus in dogs and it put a molecule it was testing in feline immunodeficiency virus on hold because of questions about its market potential. But it is exploring development plans for AT-006 in cats with ocular herpesvirus and AT-012 in cats with calicivirus, both of which performed well in early studies, Aratana said.

The company will host an Investor Day in New York City on November 12, when St. Peter will no doubt be answering questions about how soon investors should expect Aratana to make good on expectations that it can transition from a pure R&D house to a full-fledged player in animal health. "Clearly, in the near-term, the key priority is commercial execution," St. Peter said in the release.

- here's the earnings release