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Novartis' Alcon to pay €375m for rights to eye disease drug

Ocriplasmin is potential first non-surgical treatment for vitreomacular adhesion

Novartis' recently-acquired ophthalmology unit Alcon has licensed non-US rights to a drug to treat a serious eye disease from ThromboGenics in a €375m deal.

Under the agreement, Alcon gains exclusive rights to ocriplasmin, in development as a treatment for symptomatic vitreomacular adhesion (VMA), outside the US.

Alcon will pay Belgium-based ThromboGenics €75m in an upfront licensing fee, with the remaining amount dependent on regulatory and commercial milestones. ThromboGenics also stands to receive royalties on sales.

Kevin Buehler, division head at Alcon, said: "Ocriplasmin is a strategic fit for Alcon and is expected to further enhance our portfolio of innovative treatments for the eye."

VMA is condition in which the vitreous membrane of the eye fuses to the retina, causing a pulling effect which impairs vision. In serious cases holes can appear in the macula region of the retina, causing central blindness.

There is currently no approved treatment for the disease, which affects more than 300,000 people in Europe alone, with sufferers having to rely on surgical intervention when symptoms progress.

Ocriplasmin could transform the management of patients with VMA as it could potentially stop the disease progressing from the early stages.

Ocriplasmin has been under review by the European Medicines Agency (EMA) since October 2011 and is also being assessed by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA), with a decision due in the second half of this year under the agency's priority review mechanism.

Alcon and ThromboGenics will also work together on extending the indications of ocriplasmin to include diabetic macular oedema and age-related macular degeneration.

Analysts have suggested that the product could achieve $600m in peak annual sales in VMA alone. Alcon posted total revenues of $10bn last year.

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