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Novartis licenses Ophthotech eye drug in $1bn deal

Fovista is a potential first-in-class treatment for wet AMD

Novartis 

Novartis has fleshed out its portfolio of drugs for diseases of the eye by licensing Ophthotech's Fovista in a deal valued at around $1bn.

The Swiss pharma giant has licensed rights to Fovista (anti-PDGF aptamer) outside the US in a deal that brings Ophthotech $200m upfront, another $130m in near-term milestones and $700m-plus in potential regulatory and commercial payments.

Fovista is claimed to be the closest to market of all anti-PDGF (platelet derived growth factor) drugs in development and could be a first-in-class therapy for the wet form of age-related macular degeneration (AMD), a leading cause of acquired blindness.

Novartis already sells anti-VEGF (vascular endothelial growth factor) drug Lucentis (ranibizumab) for wet AMD - as well as other indications such as pathological myopia and macular oedema - and achieved sales of more than $4bn with the brand in 2013, making it the 19th biggest-selling drug on the market according to the PMLiVE Top Pharma List.

Competition in the AMD sector is on the increase, however, with Lucentis jostling for market share with Regeneron and Bayer's Eylea (aflibercept) as well as off-label use of Roche's Avastin (bevacizumab), so the Ophthotech deal gives Novartis an alternative therapeutic option as well as the possibility of developing a combination treatment.

Novartis and Ophthotech confirmed that Fovista would also be developed as a fixed-dose combination with "a Novartis proprietary anti-VEGF product" as well as new formulations of the drug such as a prefilled syringe version.

As a single agent for wet AMD Fovista is currently in three phase III trials involving more than 1,800 patients that are due to generate top-line data in 2016.

Ophthotech has retained rights to the drug in the US and will also earn royalties on overseas sales. The firm's chief executive David Guyer said the deal was the largest ex-US partnering deal ever in the biotechnology industry and "potentially transformational" for the company.

20th May 2014

From: Research, Sales

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