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Company Spotlight: Conatus Pharma


Conatus Pharmaceuticals Inc. (CNAT) has returned nearly 54% so far this year compared to a modest 12% rise in the iShares NASDAQ Biotech Index ETF (IBB) during the same period.

Conatus is a biotechnology company focused on the development and commercialization of novel medicines to treat liver diseases.

The company's lead compound is Emricasan, a first-in-class, orally active caspase protease inhibitor, that interrupts the progression of liver disease by reducing the activity of enzymes that mediate inflammation and cell death.

Emricasan is under four phase IIb clinical trials namely,

-- A phase IIb trial of Emricasan, in post-orthotopic liver transplant (POLT) recipients, dubbed POLT-HCV-SVR.
-- A phase IIb trial of Emricasan in reducing hepatic venous pressure gradient in patients with compensated or early decompensated liver cirrhosis caused by nonalcoholic steatohepatitis (NASH), and severe portal hypertension, dubbed ENCORE-PH.
-- A phase IIb clinical trial of Emricasan evaluating potential improvements in fibrosis and steatohepatitis in patients with fibrosis caused by NASH, dubbed ENCORE-NF.

Conatus signed an exclusive option, collaboration and license agreement with Novartis for the global development and commercialization of Emricasan last December.

-- Following initiation of a fourth phase IIb clinical trial of Emricasan - i.e. in NASH cirrhosis patients, dubbed ENCORE-LF, Conatus announced today that Novartis has exercised its option to an exclusive license for the global development and commercialization of Emricasan.

The license will become effective once Conatus receives the option exercise payment of $7 million, which is expected in mid-2017. Conatus received $50 million upfront payment in December 2016 and $15 million in exchange for a convertible promissory note issued to Novartis in February 2017.

Novartis will also share 50% of the costs of Conatus' four ongoing phase IIb Emricasan clinical trials.

Data readouts from the Emricasan trials are expected beginning in the first half of 2018.

What's next?

The Company is scheduled to report financial results for the first quarter ended March 31, 2017, after the market close today (May 4, 2017).

CNAT has traded in a range of $1.45 to $9.40 over the last 52 weeks. The stock closed yesterday's trading at $8.11, down 3.34%. In pre-market trading today, the stock is up 14.80% to $9.31.

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