SAN DIEGO, July 06, 2017 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) -- Conatus Pharmaceuticals Inc. (Nasdaq:CNAT) today announced that its exclusive license with Novartis for the global development and commercialization of emricasan has become effective under terms of the Option, Collaboration and License Agreement signed in December 2016. The license became effective on July 5, 2017, upon Conatus' receipt of a $7 million payment, which followed U.S. Federal Trade Commission review and expiration of the waiting period under the Hart-Scott-Rodino Antitrust Improvements Act of 1976, as amended, with respect to the Agreement. Emricasan, Conatus' first-in-class, orally-active pan-caspase inhibitor, has demonstrated activity across a broad spectrum of liver diseases, and is currently being evaluated in four Phase 2b clinical trials as a potential treatment for liver cirrhosis and fibrosis caused by nonalcoholic steatohepatitis (NASH) or hepatitis C virus (HCV) infection. With the secured and anticipated funding provided under the Novartis agreement, along with the retained net proceeds from an underwritten public offering of its common stock completed in May 2017, Conatus believes that current financial resources are sufficient to maintain operations and ongoing clinical development activities through the end of 2019, as well as to fund anticipated pipeline expansion activities. Conatus is now projecting a balance of cash, cash equivalents and marketable securities of between $55 million and $65 million at year-end 2017, compared with a balance of $77.0 million at year-end 2016. "We are very pleased to advance to effective license status in our collaboration with Novartis," said Conatus co-founder, President and Chief Executive Officer, Steven J. Mento, Ph.D., "and we look forward to working together on emricasan's development, both as a single agent for NASH cirrhosis and as a component of potential drug combinations for NASH fibrosis. In parallel, we are advancing toward a planned announcement later in 2017 of independent pipeline development opportunities aimed at building additional long-term value for our shareholders beyond emricasan."