LONDON ¿ Scotia QuantaNova, the photodynamic therapy division (PDT) of Scotia Pharmaceuticals plc, which became the first UK biotechnology company to go into receivership, has been sold to Blue Dot Capital Pte. Ltd., the biomedical investment vehicle of Singapore Technologies Group.
The value of the deal was not revealed, but it includes an up-front payment, milestones and royalties on product sales. Scotia QuantaNova accounts for about 95 percent of the overall operations of Scotia.
The division will form the nucleus of a new specialty oncology company, QuantaNova, to be headquartered in Stirling, Scotland, and led by Ken Windle, CEO of Blue Dot, who will be executive chairman.
Windle told BioWorld International, ¿The deal is unconditional, but milestones will be paid on European and FDA approvals.¿ He added, ¿The royalties are the bigger part of the whole.¿
The PDT assets include rights to Foscan, Scotia¿s lead product for the treatment of head and neck cancers, a follow-on PDT product bacteriochlorin, for the treatment of liver cancer and hepatoma, and a manufacturing plant. About 50 Scotia employees are to join QuantaNova. Scotia¿s headquarter offices in Stirling are leased and Windle said he is in discussions with the landlord on whether the new company will be based there, or go elsewhere. ¿I¿d like to stay in Stirling for the convenience of the staff. I don¿t want to lose them.¿
Scotia was forced into receivership in January when both the FDA and the European drug regulators refused approval of Foscan, preventing the company from signing a marketing partner. Scotia won the right to resubmit the file to the FDA, and also succeeded in reversing the original decision by the European advisory committee, the Committee for Proprietary Medicinal Products, not to recommend Foscan for approval. The committee changed its mind in June, and it is now expected that Foscan will get European approval in October.
¿We will be going to market in Europe in the new year. We will try and do that ourselves in most places in Europe,¿ said Windle. Beyond Europe, Quanta Nova will be looking for marketing partners, and has recommenced discussions with some of the companies Scotia was talking to before it fell into receivership.
The FDA review of Foscan was put aside while the receivers were disposing of Scotia¿s assets, and Windle said this application will not be reactivated. ¿We will construct another Phase III study in the U.S. The study design for European approval is different from that now needed by the FDA.¿ As a result, QuantaNova does not expect to file Foscan in the U.S until 2003.
QuantaNova also will start a series of other clinical studies of both Foscan and bacteriochlorin in other therapeutic areas. ¿At present we have some prioritizing to do, as we have five possible endpoints to aim at,¿ he said.
Windle said ¿all options are open¿ on the further development of QuantaNova. There is no fixed budget for licensing in compounds, but there is a business plan going forward for a number of years. ¿The first priority is to digest what we have got so far. But then we are keeping a broad brief. I would like to think we could get molecules in from outside.¿
Blue Dot was formed in 2000 by Singapore Technologies, a #20 billion industrial conglomerate, to build a portfolio of investments in the life sciences. Currently it has five minority investments in R&D companies in Asia Pacific and the U.S. Windle joined Blue Dot from GlaxoWellcome plc, where he was regional director for Asia Pacific, based in Singapore.
The administrators are still trying to sell the rest of Scotia¿s assets, the chief of which is Olibra, a lipid food additive that induces satiety, and an associated preclinical satiety compound.