International Pharmaceutical Products Inc. of Costa Mesa said it has agreed to allow STAAR Surgical Co. Inc. to distribute hyaluronic acid--used in performing cataract operations--pending a patent on the company's new production process. IPP plans to retain all rights to hyaluronic acid, but STAAR will receive an otherwise exclusive U.S. marketing license and the right of first refusal to market the substance in Canada, Japan and Western Europe.
As part of the seven-year agreement, Monrovia-based STAAR bought warrants for 200,000 shares of IPP common stock plus a five-year convertible debenture from IPP for $1.2 million. Lionel Simon, IPP's president and co-founder, said that IPP expects to receive a patent within the next year for its production process--a low-cost method of procuring the substance from chicken combs. The patent, he said, would enable the company to compete in the $50-million market for hyaluronic acid.
Surgeons use hyaluronic acid, a material used to prevent eye damage, in about 1 million cataract operations they perform in the country each year.