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Watson Pharma Takes $30M Stake In Brazilian Start-Up Moksha8

5 October 2010

(Dow Jones VentureWire) October 5, 2010 – Watson Pharmaceuticals Inc. (WPI) has gained a significant minority holding in Moksha8 Inc., a specialty-pharmaceutical company that is expanding its commercial presence in Latin America’s two largest markets.

The $30 million investment from Watson will go toward a targeted $50 million Series C round of financing. Moksha8, based in Sao Paulo, Brazil, has now raised $61 million, including from venture investors Montreux Equity Partners and TPG Biotech. The company was formed in December 2006 and focuses on infectious disease, pain and central nervous system disorders.

Moksha8 partners with drug companies looking to enter Latin America. In these alliances, it markets products on its partners’ behalf and splits the profits with them. The company now sells 21 branded products in Mexico and Brazil–the largest Latin American pharmaceutical markets–through a sales team of about 180.

Its agreement with Watson will enable Moksha8 to add 12 more drugs to its portfolio. In addition, Moksha8 has identified opportunities to acquire additional drugs from other companies, said co-founder and Chief Executive Simba Gill. If it closes these deals, it will trigger an additional investment of $20 million by Watson Pharma. Gill declined to discuss valuation, but said this Series C round will enable the company to turn profitable.

Moksha8 and Watson have yet to disclose which drugs are included in this alliance, but Gill said they include CNS products. Moksha8’s existing products include the CNS drug Rivotril, the pain medication Mesulid and the antibiotic Rocephin.

Initially, Moksha8 focused on securing rights to sell products that were already approved in Mexico and Brazil, the countries it is focusing on right now, Gill said. More recently it has started working with products that are not already cleared for sale in these countries. The company, for example, secured marketing approval in Mexico for Peramivir, an antiviral drug from partner BioCryst Pharmaceuticals Inc. (BCRX).

In addition to Watson and BioCryst, Moksha8 also has alliances with Pfizer Inc. (PFE) and Roche Holding Ltd.

By Brian Gormley, Dow Jones VentureWire