DURHAM, N.C. — Earlier this year, Fortune 500 member McKesson Corporation approached little Parata Systems in search of a potential partnership. But instead of McKesson buying or taking over Parata and its proprietary robotic system for dispensing drugs in pharmacies Parata bought a piece of the giant.

And to wrap up matters, McKesson not only formed a strategic partnership with Parata to help sell the automation technology but also invested in Parata. While the terms of the sale or the investment were not disclosed, McKesson did end up with two of Parata’s board seats.

“They approached us seeking strategic options,” Doug Townsend, chief operating officer of Parata, told WRAL Local Tech Wire. “We have high growth opportunity, McKesson saw the opportunity, and we will all ride together.”

Parata, which means to prepare or make ready in Latin, ended up buying McKesson’s automated prescriptions systems business unit. One of the results is a much bigger product line. The other is that Parata, which was founded in 2001, will grow much, much bigger once the deal is closed.

“We think we’ll practically double the size of the company,” said Townsend, who noted that Parata currently employs some 250 people.

Parata and McKesson both targeted the 90 percent of pharmacies that have little or no automation, according to figures provided by Parata. But while Parata focused on high-volume operations, McKesson dealt elsewhere.

“We were a single product company,” said Townsend, referring to Parata’s Robotic Dispensing System (RDS). The RDS is capable of counting 30 tables per second and filling as many as 154 prescriptions in an hour.

“They have a whole category of great products,” Townsend said, referring to McKesson. “They are hands down the market leader in the lower volume space. They were a natural partner.”

Parata’s target market has been pharmacies filling more than 800 prescriptions a day.

“Together, Parata and McKesson will drive the growth of the pharmacy automation market through an unbeatable combination of engineering innovation, high reliability, strong distribution, and exemplary service and support,” said Paul Julian, executive vice president and group president of McKesson. “The partnership plays to the strengths of both organizations, with the ultimate winner being our retail pharmacy customers.”

Under terms of the agreement, McKesson will have exclusive rights to sell Parata’s products and a distributor in both Canada and Mexico.

“They provide us with a reach that would have taken us time to build up,” Townsend said.

Since its launch in 2001, Parata has been funded by its founders and H.A.P. Investment Group.

“Parata built its strong market position on the superior speed and safety of our breakthrough counting and robotics technologies, coupled with compact size, capping capabilities and other features that no other company can offer,” said Jess Eberdt, chief executive officer of Parata, in a statement. “We look forward to aligning with McKesson to offer our retail pharmacy customers the most advanced technologies to enhance the safety and accuracy of the prescription process.”

Parata: www.paratasystems.com