Eye drug company QLT signs option agreement to sell punctal plug delivery system

VANCOUVER – A company associated with former QLT chief executive Robert Butchofsky has acquired an exclusive right to negotiate the purchase of a business line from the eye drug developer (TSX:QLT).

Under the deal announced Monday, Mati Therapeutics has paid $500,000 for a 90-day exclusive option to buy the assets of QLT’s punctal plug system, which is used to deliver a variety of drugs to the eye.

If Mati decides to buy the punctal plug assets, it will pay an additional $750,000 on closing as well as certain milestone payments and a low single digit royalty on net sales of products using or developed from the technology.

Butchofsky left QLT this past summer after a proxy battle waged by some of QLT’s shareholders brought in a new board.

“Among the goals the board set for the company in July, the divestiture of QLT’s punctal plug technology was an easily identifiable measure for rationalizing and refocusing the company’s strategy on its synthetic oral retinoid program,” QLT chairman Jason Aryeh said in a statement.

“Hopefully, Mr. Butchofsky’s extensive experience with and passion for the punctal plug delivery system put him in the best position to realize potential future value from this program, if acquired, and therefore recapture some tangible value from QLT’s ongoing financial interest in the technology.”

The exclusivity option may be extended by Mati up to three times by 30-day periods for an additional $100,000 for each extension.

Earlier this month, QLT announced it was cutting 27 jobs or roughly 42 per cent of its remaining workforce as it focused its efforts on the clinical development of synthetic oral retinoid program.

The cuts followed a move earlier this year to cut 146 of its 214 jobs at the time.

QLT has struggled since use of its drug Visudyne — a treatment for a major cause of blindness in the elderly — started to fall.

Sales of the drug, which uses a combination of injections and light therapy to treat AMD, plunged after the introduction of Genentech’s Lucentis and off-label use of cancer treatment Avastin.

In September, QLT signed a deal to sell Visudyne to Pharmaceuticals International Inc. (TSX:VRX).

The company agreed to pay $62.5 million to acquire the U.S. rights to Visudyne, and another $50 million for rights to the non-U.S. royalties.

QLT is also eligible for up to $5 million in contingent payments relating to the development of its laser program in the United States, up to $15 million related to the non-U.S.. royalties.

QLT shares closed down 17 cents at $7.70 on the Toronto Stock Exchange.