TAMPA, FL, August 16, 2006 - Sirion Therapeutics, Inc., an ophthalmic-focused biopharmaceutical company, announced today that it has completed a merger with Sytera, Inc., a biopharmaceutical firm based in La Jolla, California committed to discovering new treatments for dry AMD (age-related macular degeneration). The announcement was made jointly by Sirion President and CEO Barry Butler, and Sytera Chairman and CEO Kenneth J. Widder, M.D. The financial terms were not disclosed. However, Sytera shareholders will be entitled to merger consideration in the form of stock and cash up front, as well as development and commercialization payments. Sytera is an Avalon Ventures portfolio company.
The newly merged company will be named Sirion Therapeutics, Inc., and Barry Butler will serve as President and CEO. Widder will continue to serve the company as a member of the Sirion Therapeutics Board of Directors. Kevin J. Kinsella of Avalon Ventures will also join the Board of Sirion.
The leading cause of legal blindness in adults older than 60 is age-related macular degeneration, also known as AMD. It is estimated that 1.8 million Americans have AMD and the number is projected to increase to 2.9 million by 2020. According to the National Eye Institute, 90% of all people with AMD have the atrophic form, known as dry AMD.
Geographic atrophy (GA) is the advanced form of atrophic AMD. According to data published in the journal Molecular Vision, GA is present in approximately 3.5% of people age 75 and older in the United States, currently estimated at approximately 775,000 Americans. This number is expected to increase to over 1 million Americans by 2020. It is estimated that 45% of patients presenting with GA lose significant vision within two years of diagnosis, with 27% of those patients having visual acuity worse than 20/200 within four years. At present, there is no treatment for GA.
Sirion, through the merger with Sytera, obtains the compound ST-602, formerly designated SYT101 (Fenretinide). ST-602 is an oral compound aimed at reducing the accumulation of lipofuscin in the eye by lowering the body's level of serum retinol (vitamin A). It is hypothesized that the accumulation of lipofuscin in the eye is responsible for vision loss in diseases such as dry AMD, geographic atrophy, and Stargardt's disease. The company is initiating a proof of concept trial later in 2006.
"We are pleased to be teaming with Sytera to help bring an exciting treatment option to patients suffering with these debilitating diseases," said Butler. "The combined experience and capabilities of Sirion and Sytera give us unequalled discovery and development resources in this important therapeutic area."
Widder added, "We think that combining our company with Sirion will add significant value to our products and programs. Sirion's knowledge of clinical development and the ophthalmology market made Sirion an easy choice for us as a partner going forward. We look forward to being a part of this exciting new company."
Sytera's merger with Sirion brings with it a discovery laboratory focused on research into the causes of dry AMD and compounds to treat the disease. Sirion plans to leverage this outstanding team of scientists by adding screening and research capabilities for other back of the eye diseases. Sirion will seek to partner with companies to access and screen promising technologies with the potential to impact back of the eye diseases.
Butler went on to say, "We are working hard to build a broadly diversified portfolio of ophthalmic products and the addition of this innovative drug discovery program is a major step in the right direction."
Sytera was a La Jolla-based company founded in 2004 by Kevin J. Kinsella and Ken Widder, Jay Lichter, Nathan Mata and Gabriel Travis, professor of biochemistry at UCLA. Since inception, Sytera has been largely backed by Avalon Ventures and its entire focus has been to develop novel therapeutics for the treatment and prevention of dry AMD.
About Sirion Therapeutics
Sirion Therapeutics is a Tampa, FL based biopharmaceutical company dedicated to the development and commercialization of innovative ophthalmic products. For more information, visit www.siriontherapeutics.com.