Kona biotech to purchase
San Diego drug maker

Star-Bulletin staff

Mera Pharmaceuticals Inc., making a major push to accelerate its drug development program, said today it has reached a binding agreement to acquire privately held botanical drug development company Ancile Pharmaceuticals Inc.

San Diego-based Ancile's drug portfolio includes ANPH 101, a potential therapy for sleep maintenance disorders. Ancile has completed all patient work in a multimillion dollar Phase 2 proof-of-efficacy clinical trial on ANPH 101, and results are expected in the second quarter.

Mera, which changed its name from Aquasearch Inc. after emerging from Chapter 11 reorganization bankruptcy in July, has operations in Kona and Solana Beach, Calif., and is in the process of expanding to China. The company, which cultivates microalgae for nutritional products and drug discovery, said Ancile will become a wholly owned subsidiary. Ancile shareholders will receive Mera shares equal to approximately 35 percent of Mera in exchange for their Ancile shares.

Mera's stock closed up 1 cent to 6 1/2 cents on the Over the Counter Bulletin Board.

"Ancile's leadership in botanical drugs fits our natural products focus perfectly," said Richard Propper, Mera chief executive officer.

"ANPH 101 gives us an exciting drug candidate years sooner than our internal development program would have produced one. It also complements Mera's strategy of introducing new, high-quality natural products (both nutraceutical and pharmaceutical) to China, a huge potential market that is especially receptive to this type of product," he said.

Propper said Mera will now move to find a major pharmaceutical partner to help fund further development work and already has several potential candidates.

"We also will immediately pursue registration of ANPH 101 in China," he said.

Mera said the Phase 2 trial of ANPH 101 showed statistically significant and clinically relevant improvement in a number of important sleep parameters.

"The (Food and Drug Administration) has adopted a streamlined regulatory path for botanicals," Propper said. "Botanicals may, with a documented history of safe human use, directly enter clinical development in Phase 2 or 3."

The benefits of that accelerated process, he said, are lower development costs, risk and time to market.

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