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Novartis agrees cooperation to fight Covid-19


A collaboration between Molecular Partners and Novartis has been announced. Molecular Partners will be responsible for the Phase 1 trials for its two therapeutic candidates against coronavirus. If the trials are successful, Novartis will handle the further development, manufacturing and global commercialization.

Novartis has agreed a cooperation with Molecular Partners from Schlieren for the development of its two potential anti-COVID-19 therapeutic candidates. The Basel life sciences corporation has been granted an option to in-license the global rights of Molecular Partners’ two antiviral therapeutic candidates, MP0420 and MP0423. Novartis can exercise the option if the Phase 1 trial being conducted by Molecular Partners from November is successful. The DARPin therapeutics could subsequently receive emergency use approval. Novartis would then be responsible for all further development, manufacturing, distribution and commercialization activities.

According to a Novartis press release, Molecular Partners will receive a cash payment of 60 million Swiss francs under the terms of the agreement. Molecular Partners is eligible to receive a future milestone payment of 150 million francs if Novartis exercises the option to both therapeutic candidates, as well as royalties on sales. However, the biopharma from Schlieren has announced it will forgo royalties in lower income countries.

“Novartis remains unwavering in its support for tackling COVID-19,” said Novartis CEO Vas Narasimhan in the press release. It is clear that this calls for collaborations. This partnership between two Swiss companies could deliver both prophylactic and treatment options. It is therefore “another demonstration of our sustained commitment to addressing one of the greatest health challenges of our times”.

DARPin therapeutics developed by Molecular Partner are a new class of custom-built protein therapeutics based on natural binding proteins. As the press release explains, these have several characteristics that make them “ideally suited for antiviral therapy”: their multi-specific target binding with the potential to prevent viral escape via mutations, the possibility for subcutaneous administration, their long half-life for sustained activity and the potential to bypass cold storage. Unlike conventional monoclonal antibodies, DARPin therapeutics also make “simple, highly scalable bacterial fermentation feasible”. This means that these medicines can be made accessible to patients around the world as quickly as possible. Novartis and Molecular Partners will work together with the Novartis division Sandoz to scale-up manufacturing capacity.

The Swiss government has secured the right to purchase 3.2 million doses of MP0420 if approved for use in Switzerland.

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