updated 5/31/2011 12:17:13 PM ET 2011-05-31T16:17:13

VANCOUVER, British Columbia, May 31, 2011 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) -- QLT Inc. (Nasdaq:QLTI) (TSX:QLT) today announced the United States Patent and Trademark Office ("USPTO") has issued a key patent related to its synthetic retinoid program. U.S. Patent No. 7,951,841 entitled, "Retinal Derivatives and Methods for the Use Thereof for the Treatment of Visual Disorders" is the first U.S. patent in the Company's portfolio related to its synthetic retinoid program. The patent covers various methods of use of QLT091001 in the treatment of diseases associated with an endogenous 11-cis-retinal deficiency.

11-cis-retinal is a key biochemical component of the visual retinoid cycle, the deficiency of which is associated with certain inherited or age-related retinal diseases, including Leber Congenital Amaurosis (LCA) and Retinitis Pigmentosa (RP). QLT091001 is an orally administered synthetic retinoid replacement for 11-cis-retinal, and is currently under investigation by QLT for the treatment of LCA and RP.

"Following the recent grant of orphan drug designations in the United States for QLT091001 in the treatment of LCA and RP, the issuance of this patent brings additional value and protection to our synthetic retinoid program," said Bob Butchofsky, President and Chief Executive Officer of QLT. "This patent represents a significant milestone in this program and we will continue to invest in strengthening our patent portfolio in the United States and other major jurisdictions."

The U.S. patent is owned by the University of Washington. QLT has an exclusive sub-license to the patent through its Co-Development Agreement with Retinagenix LLC. Based on the period of patent term adjustment indicated in the Issue Notification from the USPTO, the patent has a term expiring on May 11, 2027. Corresponding patent applications have been filed in certain major markets and are currently pending or issued.

About Leber Congenital Amaurosis (LCA)

LCA is an inherited degenerative retinal disease characterized by abnormalities such as roving eye movements and sensitivity to light, and manifesting in severe vision loss from birth. Eye examinations of infants with LCA reveal normal appearing retinas. However, a low level of retinal activity, measured by electroretinography, indicates very little visual function. Approximately 1 child out of every 81,000 births will inherit the disease. Mutations in the genes for retinal pigment epithelium protein 65 (RPE65) and lecithin:retinol acyltransferase (LRAT) result in an inadequate production of 11-cis-retinal and occur in approximately 10% of patients with LCA, and to a lesser extent in Retinitis Pigmentosa (RP), another inherited retinal dystrophy.

About Retinitis Pigmentosa (RP)

RP is a set of hereditary retinal diseases demonstrating clinical features similar to LCA, and characterized by degeneration of rod and cone photoreceptors. By current epidemiological estimates, there are at least 300,000 patients with RP worldwide, of which less than 5% carry the inherited deficiencies of either RPE65 or LRAT. 

About Synthetic Retinoid Drugs

Genetic diseases in the eye such as LCA and RP arise from gene mutations of enzymes or proteins required in the biochemistry of vision. QLT091001 is a replacement for 11-cis-retinal, which is an essential component of the retinoid-rhodopsin cycle and visual function. QLT091001 has received orphan drug designations for the treatment of the LRAT and RPE65 genetic mutations in both LCA and RP by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. QLT091001 has also received orphan drug designations for the treatment of LCA and RP by the European Medicines Agency.

About QLT

QLT Inc. is a biotechnology company dedicated to the development and commercialization of innovative therapies for the eye. We are focused on our commercial product Visudyne® for the treatment of wet-AMD, developing drugs to be delivered in our proprietary punctal plug delivery system, as well as developing our synthetic retinoid program for the treatment of certain inherited retinal diseases. For more information, visit our website at www.qltinc.com .

Visudyne® is a registered trademark of Novartis AG.

QLT Inc. is listed on The NASDAQ Stock Market under the trading symbol "QLTI" and on the Toronto Stock Exchange under the trading symbol "QLT."

The QLT Inc. logo is available at http://www.globenewswire.com/newsroom/prs/?pkgid=6933

Forward-Looking Statements

Certain statements contained in this press release, which are not historical facts, are "forward-looking statements," of QLT within the meaning of the Private Securities Litigation Reform Act of 1995, and constitute "forward-looking information" within the meaning of applicable Canadian securities laws. Such statements include, but are not limited to: our beliefs regarding the potential benefits, targets and market opportunity of QLT091001 and the potential benefits of orphan drug designations and patent protection related to QLT091001; our expectations regarding our clinical development plans and strategies for QLT091001; and statements which contain language such as "expects," "will," "plans," "estimates," "intends," "believes" and similar expressions that do not relate to historical matters. Forward-looking statements are predictions only which involve known and unknown risks, uncertainties and other factors that may cause our actual results to be materially different from the results expressed or implied by such statements. Many such risks, uncertainties and other factors are taken into account as part of our assumptions underlying these forward-looking statements and include, among others, the following: risks and uncertainties associated with the timing, expense and outcome of research and development programs and commercialization of products (including the difficulty of predicting the timing and outcome of the synthetic retinoid drug development efforts, enrollment, clinical testing and regulatory approvals and designations or actions); uncertainties regarding the impact of competitive products and pricing; risks and uncertainties associated with the safety and effectiveness of QLT091001 and our other technology; risks and uncertainties related to the scope, validity, and enforceability of our intellectual property rights and the impact of patents and other intellectual property of third parties; and other factors as described in detail in QLT's Annual Report on Form 10-K, Quarterly Reports on Form 10-Q and other filings with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission and Canadian securities regulatory authorities. Forward-looking statements are based on the current expectations of QLT and QLT does not assume any obligation to update such information to reflect later events or developments except as required by law.

CONTACT: QLT Inc. Media Contact:
         Vancouver, Canada
         Karen Peterson
         Telephone: 604-707-7000 or 1-800-663-5486
         The Trout Group Investor Relations Contact:
         Boston, Massachusetts, USA
         Tricia Swanson
         Telephone: 646-378-2953
         New York, USA
         Christine Yang
         Telephone: 646-378-2929

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