A newly formed company of Triangle-based Cato Research Ltd. has obtained exclusive, worldwide rights to develop, manufacture and market SP-SAP, a nonopioid treatment for severe chronic pain.

SP-SAP is the leading drug candidate of Advanced Targeting Systems Inc. (ATS), a privately held biotechnology company in SanDiego that pioneered the use and manufacture of targeted toxins for clinical applications. ATS joined with Cato Research and its venture capital affiliate, Cato BioVentures, to form Advanced Pain Therapeutics LLC (APT) to develop and commercialize the product. Cato Research will be the contract research partner.

Lynda Sutton, chief operating officer of Cato Research, will also lead APT as chief executive officer in the Triangle.

"When we partner early, as we have here, we can make a major difference in the overall development of promising drug candidates such as SP-SAP," said Sutton. "The flexible, broad-based relationships among APT, ATS, and Cato Research position us well to execute our innovative drug-development model."

SP-SP is designed to bind to and eliminate neurons that send chronic pain signals to the brain. Terminally ill patients, in particular, may benefit from the drug. Pre-clinical studies indicate it does not disrupt other sensor or motor functions and has minimal side effects. 

Denise Higgins, vice president of ATS, affirmed, "We are enthusiastic about working with APT and Cato Research to help address the under-served chronic-pain population. Our pre-clinical work with SP-SAP makes us very optimistic about the impact this innovative treatment can have for those who are suffering."

Another breakthrough pain medicine, BEMA Fentanyl,was developed by Triangle-based BioDelivery Sciences International, Inc. (Nasdaq: BDSI). It recently .