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Novartis boosts involvement in anti-Covid treatment

The biotech company and the pharmaceutical giant want to develop and market a drug with a unique approach for the prevention and treatment of Covid-19. Keystone/Alexandra Wey

Swiss pharmaceutical company Novartis says it has signed a deal with biotech firm Molecular Partners to develop, manufacture and commercialise an anti-Covid-19 treatment drug.

The Basel-based company said the option and licence agreement was aimed at boosting a programme consisting of two antiviral therapeutic candidates, MP0420 and MP0423.

“It is clear that this pandemic calls for not just scientific solutions, but also for collaboration between companies to provide treatments in an area of high unmet need,” Novartis said in a statement published on Wednesday.

Molecular Partners will be responsible for the conduct of phase 1 and 2 trials.

Under the terms of the agreement, Molecular Partners will receive an initial payment of CHF60 million ($66.1 million). If Novartis takes up the option to both drugs, it will pay another CHF150 million to the biotech company.

In August, the Swiss government signed an agreement with Molecular Partners for priority access to a drug being developed to treat those severely ill with Covid-19.

It gives Switzerland access to the first 200,000 doses of the medicine, as well as up to three million further doses when requested.

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