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Novartis Strikes Deal To Commercialize Molecular Partners' COVID-19 Drug Candidates

Novartis Strikes Deal To Commercialize Molecular Partners' COVID-19 Drug Candidates

Novartis AG (NYSE: NVS) announced Wednesday it has received the license for global rights to develop, manufacture, and commercialize two antiviral therapies of Molecular Partners AG (OTC: MLLCF), which may be efficacious against COVID-19.

What Happened: Molecular Partners will be paid approximately $66 million upfront, $165 million upon Novartis agreeing to take options on both the therapeutic candidates, and significant royalties on sales, Novartis said in a statement.

The two candidates  — MP0420 and MP0423 — are “potential medicines with a unique approach for both the prevention and treatment of COVID-19,” according to Novartis. 

Both the candidates reportedly have the potential for mass manufacturing, easy administration, and both potentially do not require cold storage.

The Swiss drugmaker said it is becoming “increasingly clear” that, to tackle the pandemic globally, “the development of medicines that can prevent and treat the virus, in addition to the development of vaccines, will be crucial.”

“This Swiss led partnership, which could deliver both prophylactic and treatment options at scale for COVID-19 patients across the globe,” said Novartis CEO Vas Narasimhan.

Why It Matters: The Phase 1 clinical trials for MP0420, conducted by Molecular Partners, are expected to begin in November 2020. Molecular Partners will also perform all remaining preclinical work for MP0423, according to Novartis.

Novartis said it will conduct the Phase 2 and Phase 3 trials, with Molecular Partners as a sponsor. Development and commercialization would be shouldered by Novartis, post the trials. 

Both Swiss Drugmakers will work with Sandoz, the generics and biosimilar division of Novartis, to scale-up manufacturing capacity and ensure global supply. 

Other than vaccines, antibody cocktails have emerged as a potential treatment option for COVID-19.

This month, President Donald Trump was administered Regeneron Pharmaceuticals Inc’s (NASDAQ: REGN) antibody treatment, which he later touted as a “cure.” 

Microsoft Corporation (NASDAQ: MSFT) founder Bill Gates has said that regulatory approval for antibody treatments could sharply reduce COVID-19 mortality.

Price Action: Novartis shares traded 1.17% at $80 lower in the pre-market session on Wednesday. Molecular Partners OTC shares closed almost 2.9% higher at $17 on Tuesday.



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