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March 13, 2014  BY Sarah Redohl

Animal Health Specialties, a local biotech startup based in the MU Life Sciences Incubator, received a $230,000 investment from Columbia-based angel investor group Centennial Investors Wednesday, March 12.

“We are pretty excited about the investment,” said Centennial Investor member Greg Wolff. “Animal Health Specialties is working on what could be blockbuster drugs that will change everything for pet owners, farmers and others who need production animals.”

The “blockbuster drugs” Wolff mentions include one to treat cachexia, wasting of lean body mass often associated with cancer, in companion animals. The company is also developing a drug to help eliminate the need for antibiotics for production animals. According to the Food and Drug Administration, around 80 percent of the 7 million pounds of antibiotics sold in the United States are consumed by livestock and poultry.

“Treating cachexia and helping to eliminate the need for antibiotics for these animals will change domesticated animal health as we know it,” Wolff said.

Kenneth Gruber, president and CEO of Tensive Controls, Inc.—of which Animal Health Specialties is a subsidiary—said it was the resources of the University of Missouri and Centennial Investors’ assistance that have made the company’s progress possible.

“Dr. Gruber’s work and the effort to commercialize it represent a wonderful alliance with the University of Missouri,” said Carolyn Henry, who works with Gruber at the University of Missouri Department of Veterinary Medicine and Surgery. “I really do believe we will do great things together.”

According to a press release, “Centennial Investors reviews a wide range of deals each year, and members invest in a select few that they think will be great successes.”

“The substantial interest among Centennial Investors members was based on respect for Dr. Gruber’s credentials as a scientist as well as the opportunity for Animal Health Specialties to commercialize discoveries to improve animal health,” said Bruce Walker, chair of Centennial Investors.

Jake Halliday is the president and CEO of the Missouri Innovation Center, which runs the MU Life Sciences Incubator. In his role at the Incubator, he has assisted with the launch and growth of Animal Health Specialties.

“What I like most about Animal Health Specialties is the company’s platform technology that will generate a steady pipeline of animal health products and, from an investor standpoint, create more shots on goal.”