Sector News

Szela steers ailing Aegerion into QLT merger

June 15, 2016
Life sciences

Four months after restructuring the ailing Aegerion and axing about 80 staffers, CEO Mary Szela has completed the deal she wanted to bring in a late-stage asset.

Aegerion announced this morning that it will merge with Vancouver-based QLT, creating a new biotech named Novelion that leaves the QLT shareholders with the lion’s share of the stock and Szela with the helm.

An investment syndicate led by Deerfield is also stepping in to inject $22 million into the company through a share purchase agreement. And QLT’s investors will wind up with 67% of the shares of Novelion.

Shares of Aegerion shot up 42% on Wednesday morning.

Aegerion was afflicted by a variety of troubles. Ex-CEO Marc Beer ran into a hornet’s nest of regulatory issues, accused of making unsubstantiated claims about its drug Juxtapid. The drug, meanwhile, fell far short of expectations on the market, and Beer’s messy divorce added a few salacious allegations that helped set the stage for activist investor Alex Denner to push for a change.

That change became Szela, who had left Melinta earlier.

“A late-stage agent would be particularly impactful,” Szela told me earlier in the year as she sought to right a listing ship.

That asset materialized in QLT’s zuretinol (QLT091001) which the companies describe as a Phase III-ready orphan drug targeting inherited retinal disease caused by underlying mutations in RPE65 or LRAT genes, spotlighting Leber Congenital Amaurosis and Retinitis Pigmentosa.

QLT, meanwhile, has experienced its own turmoil. The Canadian biotech has announced and called off two earlier mergers, including a recent pact with Auxilium.

Now Szela will see if she can make one good biotech out of two troubled companies, with its HQ in Canada and its operations in Cambridge, MA. It’s a sizable task.

By John Carroll

Source: Fierce Biotech

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