A cough and congestion drug developed and commercialized in South Korea has been licensed by new North Carolina drug developer Gravity Bio, which plans to bring the drug to Western markets.
Gravity, based in Chapel Hill, has exclusive rights to commercialize the cough and congestion drug Synatura in the United States, Europe and other unspecified countries. Synatura was developed by Ahngook Pharmaceutical Co., a Seoul company. Gravity says Synatura generated more than $40 million in South Korean sales when it launched in 2011.
No financial terms were disclosed but Gravity said the companies will collaborate on developing and manufacturing the products covered by their agreement. Gravity will also pay unspecified fees and royalties to Ahngook, including milestone payments linked to Synatura’s progress. Gravity said it expects to start U.S. clinical trials this year.
Gravity CEO Mark Weedon did not return a message seeking comment. The company has no record of filings at the North Carolina Secretary of State or the Securities and Exchange Commission. Gravity has a sparse website that says it is “under construction” and offers no company or drug information.
In the press release announcing the licensing deal, Gravity notes that Synatura is a non-opioid medicine, which would set it apart from cough suppressants containing opioids, which come with the risk of addiction. While Gravity says Ahngook’s preclinical and clinical studies of Synatura demonstrated the drug’s capabilities as cough suppressant and an expectorant, cough and congestion might just be a starting point for Gravity’s work on Synatura.
Gravity said that Ahngook’s studies also showed the drug’s active ingredients had potential to treat viral and flu-like symptoms. Jin Auh, president and CEO of Ahngook, said in a statement that “we are confident that Gravity Bio will successfully develop and commercialize products for the treatment of cough, congestion, cold and other potential indications in the respiratory area.”
Weedon brings to Gravity drug development and commercialization experience from big and small pharma. His chief executive experience includes his time spent at Massachusetts company Scriptgen Pharmaceuticals and also Merix Bioscience, a Durham company now known as Argos Therapeutics. Weedon has also held business development positions at Burroughs Wellcome and later GlaxoSmithKline.
Weedon is currently listed as a principal at Research Triangle Park consultancy BWA Consulting. His biography at BWA’s website says he oversaw Glaxo’s worldwide launch of heartburn reliever Zantac from a prescription drug to an over-the-counter product, one of more than 20 product launches or licenses he was involved in.