QLT seeks options for eye drug delivery tech in major shakeup

Are you in the market for ocular drug delivery system? QLT's new board revealed a multi-pronged effort that will reduce overhead costs and narrow the focus of the Vancouver-based eye drug specialist. And the biotech outfit's Punctal Plug Delivery System failed to make the cut.

In a letter to shareholders Monday, QLT Chairman Jason Aryeh put the delivery tech on a list of assets and personnel his company has decided to do without. Goldman Sachs won the job of finding either a buyer or spinoff of QLT's Punctal Plug Delivery System, which is in mid-stage development as a delivery platform for a glaucoma treatment. The company also hired Goldman to seek a partner for or sale of its Visudyne, an age-related macular degeneration drug that has lost ground in the marketplace.

Aryeh's letter didn't explain in much detail why punctal plug system isn't in the company's long-term plans. Yet the delivery tech has faced challenges. Analysts last year pointed out that the silicon-based plugs failed to stay in place in some patients. Meantime, the startup Ocular Therapeutics has a rival plug system in early development for glaucoma. As opposed to eye drops, the plugs offer the potential to deliver drug to eye over a prolonged period of time and boost compliance. But the plugs must stay put for a prescribed period of time to offer those benefits.

QLT's board, which activist investors took over earlier this year, plans to focus efforts on a synthetic oral retinoid candidate, QLT091001, which the company aims to advance into pivotal trials for Leber Congenital Amaurosis (LCA) and Retinitis Pigmentosa (RP) in the first half and second half of 2013, respectively. With the strategic decision on the drug-delivery and Visudyne assets, the company plans to begin letting go 146 workers. QLT CEO Robert Butchofsky is also exiting the company this month.

- here's the release

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