Entrepreneurs bring the future to pet health care

If the team at NewMarket Pharmaceuticals has its way, YouTube is about to become a little less funny – and cat owners lives a lot more peaceful.

Thousands of YouTube videos show pet owners coaxing, conniving, or simply cramming a pill down their cat’s throat – and thousands more feature "experts" describing novel ways to get the job done.

Compare those scenarios to this one:

A technician holds a squirming cat. This cat does not want to take its pill. The technician perseveres, and after a few tries manages to slip a small tablet between the cat’s clenched teeth.

For two seconds the cat tries to spit out the pill. Then it relaxes, and all is well.

NewMarket’s answer to the question, "How do you pill a cat?" is "Design a better pill."

The pill is small enough to slip into the cat’s mouth. It’s engineered so the cat can’t spit it out. It dissolves in two seconds. And, because the drug is absorbed in the oral cavity rather than being swallowed, it delivers the full dose of the drug directly to the bloodstream without the loss or alteration that can occur in digestion.

That’s the pitch NewMarket made to 250 investors and others at the Animal Health Investment Forum in Kansas City on August 28.

NewMarket shared the podium with 12 other companies seeking industry partners and cash to help bring their products to market. Ten of the companies focus on the companion animal market; only three were devoted solely to agriculture. Two companies’ products could apply to both food and companion animals.

Offerings ranged from a nutritional supplement derived from beta-carotene to a manufacturing facility able to produce 100 types of soft chews to a company that creates molds used to build organotypic cell clusters to create species-specific 3-D miniature organs.

If you’re looking for insight into what companion animal medicine may look like in 10 years, this is a good place to do it.

In addition to NewMarket’s "instant dissolve" technology, the Investor Forum highlighted services for manufacturers as well products for veterinarians and consumers, including:

  • hairball soft chew that breaks down hairballs to substances that can be metabolized (Bock Vet Pharma)
  • anti-cancer agent for treatment of lymphoma in dogs, based on an existing human product (VetDC)
  • biofilm-buster, which improves the effectiveness of antibiotics by killing the environment in which bacteria thrive (Kane Biotech)
  • the ability to engineer cell clusters, including those used for transplants into companion animals as a way to cure diabetes without long-term immunosuppression (Likarda)
  • bioadhesive barrier that won’t wash off, for postoperative incision care (Bock Vet Pharma)
  • pain-free eye drop to treat dry eye (keratoconjunctivitis sicca, KCS) in dogs (Animal Health Specialties)
  • nutritional supplement derived from beta-carotene (Avivagen)
  • private-labeling of nutrition and dermatological products for veterinary practices, e.g., Dr. Jones Joint Support Supplement (Stratford Pharmaceuticals)
  • the ability to obtain the FDA’s New Animal Drug Approval (essentially extending a drug’s patent 5-7 years in the veterinary field) for existing human drugs with patents that are about to expire (Companion Pharma)
  • capability to manufacture 100 types of soft chews (EZ-Med Holdings)

The audience of 250 included investors, venture capitalists, pharmaceutical and biotech firms, aspiring entrepreneurs hoping to be on stage in the future, consultants specializing in early stage business growth, universities, and development agencies for local government.