In the face of a bid by dissident shareholders to take control, Canadian biopharmaceutical group QLT has outlined its future plans for growth as it looks for support from investors.
Earlier this week, the Vancouver-based company was stunned by a move from its second-largest stockholder, Nordic Biotech, which nominated a slate of six new directors to the board just two days ahead of QLT's annual shareholder meeting on May 24; the latter has been put back to June 4.
QLT initially responded by noting that Nordic Biotech, which holds a stake of about 15%, "has not communicated a plan for the company, its assets, or its employees". It went on to say the move is "highly disruptive and could impede the progress in all three of our current clinical development programmes".
The company has again addressed investors, saying that it will seek "to maximise the value and profitability of Visudyne (verteporfin)", the treatment of wet age-related macular degeneration it sells in the USA and is partnered elsewhere with Novartis. The company plans to submit by mid-year a premarket approval for a new Visudyne laser "with the goal to ensure that the device is readily available for the US retina community in 2013".
QLT says that assuming that the board is re-elected at the AGM, its key priority will be the development of QLT091001 for inherited retinal diseases caused by RPE65 and LRAT genetic mutations. The company added that it is in "advanced stages of regulatory interaction that could lead to the initiation of a pivotal trial for Leber's congenital amaurosis prior to year-end and a Phase III study in retinitis Pigmentosa in 2013.
The firm went on to state that development of its punctal plug drug delivery platform for the treatment of glaucoma "will occur with staged investment and well-defined near-term milestones". It noted that "investments beyond Phase II will not occur unless each programme is partnered".
In a nod to investors, QLT's management said it will "continue to evaluate the company's allocation of capital". Since 2006, the firm has returned C$210 million through share repurchases while investing C$236 million in R&D. The board also proposes a return of capital via a modified Dutch auction tender offer of $75-$100 million in the third quarter of 2012.