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Novartis signs experimental eye drug deal

pharmafile | March 19, 2012 | News story | Research and Development, Sales and Marketing Novartis, ThromboGenics, vitreomacular adhesion 

Novartis will develop an experimental eye drug with ThromboGenics in a pact worth nearly $500 million. 

The deal has been signed between Novartis’ ophthalmology unit Alcon and the Belgian biotech firm ThromboGenics.

The two firms will collaborate on the experimental Phase III drug ocriplasmin, designed to treat symptomatic vitreomacular adhesion, or VMA.

The deal could be worth up to €375 million ($494 million) to ThromboGenics, who will retain its rights to the drug in the US – Novartis will hold the rights to the drug in Europe and the rest of the world.

Novartis said it would pay the biotech $98.8 million upfront, with additional milestone payments and royalties to follow if ocriplasmin gains regulatory approvals.

Analysts Jeffries International forecast the drug could hit peak sales of $600 million – but this forecast doesn’t include additional indications for the drug currently being tested in diabetic retinopathy (DR), age-related macular degeneration (AMD) and stroke.

Symptomatic VMA is a sight-threatening disease, and may lead to symptoms such as distorted vision, decreased visual acuity and central visual field defects. 

Surgery is currently the only treatment for VMA, and ThromboGenics estimates that the treatment could benefit more than 300,000 patients in Europe.

The firms expect to launch the drug in the US within the next 12 months – the drug is currently under review by the EMA for approval in Europe.

If approved this drug will build on Novartis’ ophthalmic offerings that include its blockbuster eye drug Lucentis (ranibizumab), which is licensed to treat wet AMD, retinal vein occlusion and diabetic macular oedema.

Kevin Buehler, division head of Alcon said: “There are thousands of symptomatic vitreomacular adhesion patients who currently do not have an available treatment option. The clinical results for ocriplasmin show improved visual function and that earlier intervention may limit the progression of the disease.

“Ocriplasmin is a strategic fit for Alcon and is expected to further enhance our portfolio of innovative treatments for the eye.”

ThromboGenics is also developing novel antibody therapeutics in collaboration with BioInvent International. 

These include TB-402 (anti-Factor VIII), a long-acting anticoagulant in Phase II, and TB-403 (anti-PlGF) in Phase Ib/II for cancer in partnership with Roche.

Ben Adams

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