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Nov 27, 2013

Biozone Merges with Cocrystal, Focusing on Antiviral Drugs

  • Biozone Pharmaceuticals said today it will acquire Cocrystal Discovery, creating a combined company focused on developing antiviral therapeutics for human diseases. The price was not disclosed.

    Cocrystal has five therapeutic programs targeting the Hepatitis C Virus (HCV), Influenza, the Human Rhinovirus (HRV), Dengue, and the Norovirus. Cocrystal says it is targeting two Hepatitis C replication enzymes, with its Polymerase program at lead optimization stage, and its Helicase program at lead identification stage. Cocrystal's Influenza, HRV, Dengue, and Norovius programs involve production of what the company says will be first-in-class antivirals.

    Biozone said it agreed to terms and signed a letter of intent to carry out a reverse merger that will leave Cocrystal as the surviving company, with new headquarters in Bothell, WA. Biozone has been headquartered in Englewood Cliffs, NJ. Current shareholders of Biozone and Cocrystal will own about 40% and 60% of the combined company, respectively.

    "We believe this merger will significantly enhance our ability to bring our small molecule inhibitors of the viral replication complex to market," Gary Wilcox, Ph.D., existing CEO and chairman of the current Cocrystal, said in a statement. He will hold the same position with the newly combined Cocrystal.

    Roger Kornberg, Ph.D., chief scientist and a director of Cocrystal, will keep the title of chief scientist with the combined company. Dr. Kornberg received the 2006 Nobel Prize in Chemistry and is professor of structural biology at Stanford University School of Medicine.

    Cocrystal is 40% owned by Opko Health and The Frost Group, two of several strategic investors from a group that includes Teva Pharmaceuticals. Frost Group principal Phillip Frost M.D. serves as board chairman of Teva, and as Chairman and CEO of Opko Health. Opko Health’s vice chairman and CTO is Jane Hsiao, Ph.D., who is also a director at Cocrystal.

    “There are compelling advantages to the technologies for small molecule inhibitors of the viral replication complex. In addition to the groundbreaking technology that Cocrystal Discovery possesses, I am always one to bet on management,” Dr. Frost said in a statement.

    Dr. Wilcox served on the board of directors and was EVP of operations at Icos from 1993 through its sale to Eli Lilly for $2.3 billion in 2007. At Icos he led the teams developing the blockbuster erectile dysfunction drug Cialis, and attracted Bill Gates and other notable investors as backers.

    “With Dr. Wilcox's top-notch pedigree and successes in bringing products to market, I am confident in the future of this company. This merger will provide greater resources to help bring products of the combined company to market and offer shareholders an opportunity to realize significant value on their investment, Dr. Frost said.

    Biozone announced the reverse merger less than a month after disclosing it will sell substantially all of its assets, and those of its subsidiaries, to MusclePharm. The assets include Biozone's California manufacturing facility, as well as the Biozone name and the company's products. The announcement also disclosed that Biozone was in late stages of talks to acquire “a significant biotechnology company partially owned by OPKO Health, Teva Pharmaceuticals and one of our largest shareholders Dr. Phillip Frost and The Frost Group."



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