Napo Pharmaceuticals

By Robert Chess, Joshua Spitzer
2006 | Case No. E223
“Napo Pharmaceuticals” chronicles entrepreneur Lisa Conte’s two ventures, Shaman Pharmaceuticals and Napo Pharmaceuticals. Shaman was formed to make drug discovery and development more efficient by studying traditional, indigenous healers in the tropics. Shaman had identified a promising compound that came to be known as crofelemer. For a variety of complex reasons, Shaman declared bankruptcy, and Napo, Conte’s new company established specifically for this purpose, bought Shaman’s library of compounds including crofelemer. At the time of the case study, Napo was developing the compound for sale in large western markets while arranging an innovative public-private partnership to develop and distribute crofelemer in the developing world. In developing countries, the compound would treat diarrhea, which kills over 2.5 million children every year. That public-private partnership proved difficult to arrange, and the case concludes with Conte deciding whether or not to proceed with the partnership that would not only save the lives of children but would also provide much-needed capital to keep Napo in business.
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