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NOVARTIS GETS RIGHTS FOR DRUG LEADS
 


Novartis acquires rights for two drug leads

Novartis to make hefty payments for experimental drug lead hepatitis C candidate, NM283 (valopicitabine) and agomelatine.

BY OUR PHARMA CORRESPONDENT
April 6, 2006

In an effort to boost its product pipeline, the Swiss drug giant Novartis has signed licensing agreements with two firms-- Idenix and Servier--for experimental hepatitis and depression drugs.

Novartis will pay biotechnology firm Idenix as much as $525m for access to its hepatitis C candidate, NM283 (valopicitabine). It has also licensed 
agomelatine, an investigational drug currently in phase III trials for the treatment of major depressive disorder, from the French firm Servier.

NM283, considered as one of the most promising medicines under development to treat hepatitis C, has recently suffered a setback; at the end of March, 
Idenix said it would delay late-stage trials of the drug to first test it at lower doses to avoid gastro-intestinal problems.

Under the terms of the deal, Novartis will have exclusive rights to market and promote the drug everywhere except the USA, UK, Spain, France, Italy and 
Germany, where the two firms will co-promote it.

The Servier agreement, which requires antitrust approval in the US, gives exclusive rights to further develop and market agomelatine in several 
countries, including the key US market. Servier has retained the rights to develop and market the product in the rest of the world.

Although agomelatine has been filed for approval in Europe, the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has requested that Novartis conduct a clinical 
trial programme in the US.

Analysts said the drug appears to have similar efficacy to other antidepressants such as Wyeth's Effexor and GlaxoSmithKline's Paxil, but may have fewer 
side effects.
Reports in the Swiss media have suggested that Bertarelli could soon be stepping down. The 40-year old billionaire is understood to be organising a 
defence of his 2003 victory in the America's Cup yacht race and the market would welcome an experienced biotech executive at the helm of the Swiss 
biotechnology firm.

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