Local drug firm Innocutis sold

Among other dermatological remedies, Innocutis markets the French-made cold-sore drug Sitavig in the U.S.

A Charleston drug company that specializes in treating skin conditions has been sold to a Canadian business itching to expand into the U.S. market.

Canada’s Cipher Pharmaceuticals said it acquired privately held Innocutis Holdings LLC for $45.5 million in cash this week.

The deal also offers up to $3 million in management incentive payments over three years if the Church Street business meets certain financial targets.

“This acquisition marks our commercial entry to the U.S. market and represents an important step toward our goal of creating a leading North American dermatology business,” Cipher CEO Shawn O’Brien said in a written statement. “Innocutis provides us with commercial infrastructure, revenue-generating branded prescription products and a talented team, including a 31-person sales force that shares our customer-focused philosophy.”

Revenue at Innocutis totaled $10.1 million last year.

“This is an exciting day for our company and marks the start of a new chapter as part of the Cipher organization,” Innocutis co-founder and CEO Joe Pecora said.

Cipher is a publicly traded company based in Mississauga, Ontario, south of Toronto. It had sales of $32.3 million last year.

The company is looking at keeping the newly acquired U.S. operations in Charleston, said Jonathan Alba, chief operating officer and co-founder of Innocutis. Cipher will be “evaluating the situation over the next few weeks,” he said.

Innocutis formerly was known as JSJ Pharmaceuticals. It changed its name about five years ago.

Formed in 2005 in Philadelphia to develop and commercialize therapies for skin ailments, the company moved to Charleston in 2007. It announced in 2011 that a Florida venture capital fund had invested $6.5 million in the business.

Last year, Innocutis began selling in the United States a medicine for cold sores developed by a French company. It plans to seek permission to sell the drug, Sitavig, in Cipher’s homeland next year.