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Archive for Friday, May 23, 2003

Oread investors sell final asset

Bristol-Myers buys rights to drug that helps premature babies

May 23, 2003

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Oread Inc. lives on, sort of.

The once high-flying, Lawrence-based drug development company hadn't produced a success story since the company filed for bankruptcy and released all 225 of its employees in 2001.

But the 116 investors who helped create the company back in the mid-1980s scored a victory earlier this month with the sale of one of Oread's leftover drug projects.

Howard Mossberg, president of Oread Holding Inc., a company that represents the 116 Oread investors, said the holding company and two pharmaceutical partners completed a deal May 2 with a division of Bristol-Myers Squibb to sell the rights to Cafcit, a drug that helps premature babies with breathing problems. Terms of the deal were not disclosed.

"It was a nice deal," Mossberg said. "Nobody would say that we hit the Klondike stream of gold, but it is a nice outcome to a long road we've been down."

The long road began in 1994 when investors sold the assets of the then-Oread Labs to a group led by Lawrence businessman David Kimbrell. Oread Labs was founded in 1984 as an offshoot of research done at Kansas University.

That sale included the company's campus and equipment at 15th Street and Wakarusa Drive, but it didn't include the rights to all ongoing drug projects at Oread Labs. Investors kept the rights to certain drugs, including Cafcit.

The drug received Food and Drug Administration approval and has been on the market since late 1999. The drug was being used in a few neonatal hospitals across the country, but the investors thought the drug could have more potential if it were owned by a company that specialized in selling infant drugs.

"We felt like it would be a win-win situation if someone more directly connected to the pediatric marketplace would take the drug," said Mossberg, who also is the vice chancellor emeritus of KU's pharmacology and toxicology departments.

Bristol-Myers Squibb bought the drug and assigned it to its Mead Johnson division, which specializes in infant medicines. The company thinks the drug has great potential. Company officials have estimated about 150,000 premature babies are born each year in the United States.

"Bristol-Myers Squibb has a unique history of leveraging acquisition and co-promotion opportunities to support products which address unmet medical needs," said Peter Dolan, Bristol-Myers Squibb chairman and CEO.

Mossberg called the sale the "final chapter" in the original Oread Labs activities, saying the holding company had no remaining assets to sell.

He also hopes the sale will help boost efforts to create a thriving pharmaceutical industry in the Lawrence area. Mossberg said the sale could be viewed as at least a partial success story to attract other start-up companies.

"It is an example of a drug that made it through the entire process and is now a useful therapeutic agent, and that is what is important to a lot of people in that industry," Mossberg said.

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