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Novartis fills its drug pipeline

April 3, 2006 | A version of this story appeared in Volume 84, Issue 14

Novartis went on a buying spree last week, licensing two latestage drugs and a third product in preclinical development. The company exercised its option to license Idenix Pharmaceuticals' valopicitabine, an oral antiviral in Phase IIb studies to treat hepatitis C. The move comes less than a week after Idenix said it would have to adjust the dosage of the compound due to gastrointestinal side effects, a setback that is likely to delay the start of Phase III trials by at least six months. Idenix will get $25 million up front and up to $525 million in license and milestone fees. Novartis also bought for an undisclosed sum the rights to agomelatine, which is in Phase III trials to treat depression, from French pharmaceutical company Servier. And the Swiss firm bolstered its early-stage pipeline through a licensing agreement with SGX Pharmaceuticals. The pact gives Novartis access to SGX's preclinical compounds and research in inhibitors that treat drug-resistant chronic myelogenous leukemia, or CML. Novartis' nilotinib is already in clinical trials for this use. Novartis' Gleevec treats CML, but some patients can't tolerate it or develop resistance to it. Under the deal, SGX will receive $25 million up front from Novartis and as much as $515 million in milestone payments.


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