ENGLEWOOD CLIFFS, NJ--(Marketwired - November 27, 2013) - Biozone Pharmaceuticals, Inc. (OTCBB: BZNE) today announced that it has agreed to terms and signed a Letter of Intent to merge with Cocrystal Discovery, Inc., a privately-held, biotechnology company developing antiviral therapeutics for human diseases. Cocrystal Discovery has breakthrough technologies that enable the creation of first- and best-in-class antivirals.
Cocrystal Discovery has previously received strategic investments from Teva Pharmaceuticals (NYSE: TEVA), Opko Health (NYSE: OPK), and The Frost Group. Opko Health and The Frost Group together own approximately 40% of Cocrystal Discovery.
Cocrystal Discovery has five therapeutic programs targeting the Hepatitis C Virus (HCV), Influenza, the Human Rhinovirus (HRV), Dengue, and the Norovirus. The Hepatitis C Virus is the cause of 170 million chronic infections worldwide and has created a market for treatment of $6 billion in 2012 that is projected to grow to $20 billion by 2020. Cocrystal Discovery is targeting two Hepatitis C replication enzymes, with its Polymerase program at lead optimization stage and its Helicase program at lead identification stage. Cocrystal Discovery's Influenza, HRV, Dengue, and Norovius programs are targeting unmet multi-billion dollar market opportunities with first-in-class antivirals.
Dr. Gary Wilcox, the existing Chief Executive Officer and Chairman of Cocrystal Discovery, will become the Chief Executive Officer and Chairman of the combined company. Dr. Wilcox served on the Board of Directors and was Executive Vice President of Operations at Icos Corporation from 1993 through its sale to Eli Lilly (NYSE: LLY) for $2.3 billion in 2007. At Icos he led the teams developing Cialis, which now has annual sales over $2 billion, and had notable large investors including Bill Gates backing the company.
"We believe this merger will significantly enhance our ability to bring our small molecule inhibitors of the viral replication complex to market," commented Dr. Wilcox. "Drs. Frost and Hsiao have a proven track record of driving healthcare innovation while creating significant value for shareholders. We believe in our ability to discover oral, once-a-day, broad-spectrum antiviral drug candidates targeting the polymerase enzyme of the Hepatitis C virus. Our other first-in-class therapeutic programs have the potential to be billion dollar opportunities as well."
Dr. Roger Kornberg, Chief Scientist and a Director of Cocrystal Discovery, will keep the title of Chief Scientist of the combined company. Dr. Kornberg received the 2006 Nobel Prize in Chemistry and is Professor of Structural Biology at Stanford University School of Medicine.
Dr. Phillip Frost and Dr. Jane Hsiao are current Directors at Cocrystal. Dr. Frost is the Chairman and CEO of Opko Health, Inc, and the Chairman of the Board of Teva Pharmaceuticals. Dr. Hsiao is Vice Chairman and Chief Technical Officer of Opko Health, Inc.
Dr. Frost commented, "We are excited about the breadth of the management team at Cocrystal Discovery. 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. 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."
Under the terms of the merger agreement, current shareholders of Biozone Pharmaceuticals and Cocrystal Discovery will own approximately 40% and 60% of the combined company, respectively. The Merger is expected to close at the end of 2013, and is subject to customary conditions to closing as detailed in the Merger Agreement. The structure of the transaction will be in the form of a reverse merger with Cocrystal Pharma, Inc. as the surviving corporation and will now be headquartered in Bothell, WA. The combined company will initially continue to trade on the OTCBB under the symbol BZNE.