Ophthotech plots deal spree to bounce back from trial flop

Troy A. Pentecost has been appointed to the additional positions of president and interim senior executive officer, effective immediately.
Ophthotech is looking to boost its prospects by striking deals

Ophthotech has started a search for ophthalmic drugs, pipeline prospects and technologies it can rebuild its business around. Management kicked off the hunt after a phase 3 failure blew a hole in Ophthotech’s hopes of bringing its wet AMD asset to market.

Until December, Ophthotech was focused on getting its wet AMD candidate Fovista through a pair of phase 3 trials and onto the market as a way to improve on the efficacy of Novartis' Lucentis. The publication of data showing the addition of Fovista to Lucentis failed to improve visual acuity over the Novartis drug as a monotherapy dented that prospect, prompting Ophthotech’s board to enlist Leerink Partners to help it weigh up strategic alternatives.

As it stands, while all options are up for discussion, Ophthotech is more interested in being a buyer than a seller. The plan is to look to land the rights “to additional products, product candidates and technologies to treat ophthalmic diseases, particularly those of the back of the eye.” By pairing such assets with its existing expertise in ophthalmic diseases, Ophthotech thinks it can secure itself and its shareholders a potentially-lucrative future despite the travails of Fovista.

“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,” Ophthotech CEO David Guyer said in a statement.

Ophthotech has cash to realize the plan—it was sat on $321 million at the end of September—and has rejigged its team to enact the strategy. Glenn Sblendorio is no longer covering both the CFO and COO roles. Instead, Sblendorio will serve as CFO and president, leaving SVP Keith Westby to step up to the COO position. Guyer talked up Sblendorio’s business development experience in his explanation of the reshuffle.

The team will hunt for deals while overseeing the completion of a phase 3 trial that is administering Fovista or a placebo on top of either Regeneron’s Eylea or Roche’s Avastin. That trial is due to post data in the middle of the year. If that study joins the Lucentis trial in the flop column, Ophthotech will be left with a phase 2/3 geographic atrophy candidate and whatever its business development team can rustle up.