Beleaguered Cambridge Drugmaker Aegerion Merges with QLT to Survive

 Beleaguered Cambridge Drugmaker Aegerion Merges with QLT to Survive June 15, 2016
By Alex Keown, BioSpace.com Breaking News Staff

CAMBRIDGE, Mass. – After terminating 25 percent of its workforce two months ago due to lagging sales of Juxtapid, Aegerion Pharmaceuticals, Inc. has entered into a merger agreement with Vancouver-based QLT Inc. .

Aegerion will become a wholly-owned indirect subsidiary of QLT, but the combined company will do business as Novelion Therapeutics. Aegerion’s Chief Executive Officer Mary Szela will serve as CEO of the new company. Under terms of the deal, each outstanding share of Aegerion common stock will be exchanged for 1.0256 shares of QLT common stock. A syndicate of investors said they would invest $22 million in QLT in support of the merger. QLT said the funds are expected to provide Novelion with “additional capital to support future operations and the potential opportunity for targeted business development initiatives.” The merger is expected to close during the third quarter of 2016 and then Novelion is expected to have an unrestricted cash balance of more than $100 million.

Following the name change to Novelion, shares of that stock will be available for trade on the NASDAQ Global Select Market and the Toronto Stock Exchange.

Aegerion and QLT said the merger is expected to create a rare disease-focused global biopharmaceutical company with a diversified portfolio, which will include Juxtapid and Aegerion’s other commercially approved drug, Myalept, an injectable approved to treat complications of leptin deficiency, as well as QLT's QLT091001 (Zuretinol), a Phase III-ready Ultra-Orphan Fast Track and Orphan Drug designated asset being developed for the treatment of Inherited Retinal Disease caused by underlying mutations in RPE65 or LRAT gene.

"We believe QLT's clinical development team, and meaningful cash position, and Aegerion's commercialization expertise will help unlock significant value in QLT's Zuretinol asset and enable Novelion to pursue important milestones across a commercial and late-stage portfolio, including potential regulatory approval in Japan for Juxtapid and potential regulatory filings in Europe for Myalept. I believe that this proposed merger represents a fresh start and an opportunity to create significant value, and I look forward to driving our programs forward,” Szela said in a statement.

Aegerion’s Juxtapid is used to treat homozygous familial hypercholesterolemia (HoFH), high cholesterol caused by a rare genetic mutation. The drug has an annual price tag of $295,000. It faces stiff competition from the recently approved Praluent, co-developed by Sanofi and Regeneron, which has a lower price tag of $14,600. Amgen’s injectable anti-cholesterol drug, Repatha, has an even smaller price point of $14,600 per year.

Shares of Aegerion are up nearly 35 percent this morning following news of the merger, hitting $2 per share at the start of trade. Shares of QLT are up 12.5 percent, hitting a morning high of $1.69 per share.

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