Dissidents trigger big shake up at QLT after board coup

The struggling Canadian biotech QLT ($QLTI) is bidding its CEO goodbye along with 146 staffers as it pushes ahead toward critical pivotal studies on an experimental therapy. The restructuring--which was ordered by a slate of activist investors which seized control of QLT a month ago--will eliminate two thirds of the payroll at QLT, leaving 68 workers as the biotech tries to auction off its Punctal Plug delivery system and ponders what to do with its underperforming eye treatment Visudyne, which is used to treat age-related blindness.

CEO Robert Butchofsky is staying on no later than the end of this month as the board interviews a possible replacement. In a letter to shareholders sent out this morning, Chairman Jason Aryeh made clear that the company's future will depend heavily on its synthetic oral retinoid program, QLT091001, which is in the clinic for orphan indications. "The first two indications for this program are Leber Congenital Amaurosis and Retinitis Pigmentosa," he wrote. "QLT hopes to be in pivotal clinical trials for LCA no later than the first quarter of 2013 and for RP no later than the end of the second quarter of 2013."

QLT will continue to partner Visudyne, which has been losing ground to rival treatments for years now, but it's also brought in Goldman Sachs to either find a buyer or partner on the drug to help raise cash.

"As a result of the new board's strategy," the chairman added, "QLT Inc. will preserve its significant financial resources, work to monetize non-core assets, and be in a position to intensify its focus on the development of its high-potential Oral Retinoid program. In making our decision to change the company's strategic direction, we have been careful to ensure that no hindrance should occur in the development of QLT091001."

- here's the press release
- read the story from Reuters

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