Restructuring

Struggling Ophthotech organizes a global hunt for some new opthalmology deals

Opthotech CEO David R. Guyer

Ophthotech wasted little time in responding to its Phase III Fovista disaster by laying off 135 staffers and hunkering down to weather the storm. And now it’s set off on a public hunt for a deal, or deals, to replace its one-time blockbuster contender with a new eye drug program that can whip up some badly needed excitement for the biotech.

Officially, Ophthotech $OPHT has begun an exploration of “strategic alternatives,” which usually translates into a last-ditch effort to squeeze any remaining value there is in a biotech after a major catastrophe. But the biotech indicated that it has some specific goals in mind.

“Without limiting any option, the principal focus of this plan, based on the Company’s deep expertise and experience in ophthalmology, is to actively explore obtaining rights to additional products, product candidates and technologies to treat ophthalmic diseases, particularly those of the back of the eye,” the company said in its statement.

To help with that process, the biotech announced that CFO Glenn P. Sblendorio will also assume the role of president.

“We believe that with our expertise and experience in ophthalmology we are well positioned to explore and critically evaluate a variety of opportunities that could include in-licensing, acquisition and collaboration opportunities,” said Ophthotech CEO David R. Guyer in a statement.

Ophthotech had everything going for it when it struck a $1 billion-plus partnership with Novartis on its late-stage wet-AMD drug Fovista back in 2014. The anti-PDGF — designed to go hand-in-hand with an anti-VEGF like Lucentis — had successfully navigated a positive Phase IIb. And a successful IPO in 2013 added cash as investors bought into its promise. Novartis itself agreed to pay $330 million in upfront and near-term cash to get the deal done — a sizable sum.

But the odds-on winner turned into a disappointing loser a month ago as Ophthotech and Novartis spelled out a serious failure in two late-stage studies, sending its share price reeling. Its stock cratered instantly, plunging 82% in pre-market trading.


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