Novartis Taps Molecular Partners for a New Way to Defeat COVID-19 - COVID-19 Clinical Trial
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Novartis Taps Molecular Partners for a New Way to Defeat COVID-19

Novartis is spending $69 million upfront on a pair of experimental drugs from Fierce 15 winner Molecular Partners. The deal is for MP0420 and MP0423, two antivirals out of the biotech’s so-called DARPin tech, which Molecular Partners says has “multi-specific target binding with the potential to prevent viral escape via mutations, the possibility for subcutaneous administration, long half-life for sustained activity, the potential to bypass cold storage and typically high-yield, highly scalable production in bacterial fermenters.” This would be a novel way of trying to stop the virus, although both meds are still very early-stage with much to prove. It’s also the first real major step and collab for Novartis amid the pandemic.

MP0420 is the furthest along, with a phase 1 slated for next month to be undertaken by Molecular Partners. It will also work on the remaining preclinical stage for MP0423. If all goes well, Novartis will then step in and conduct phase 2 and phase 3, with Molecular Partners as sponsor of these tests. Should Novartis hit up its option to fully license these meds, it would then be responsible for all further development and sales. The pair will also work together to scale up manufacturing capacity in collaboration with Novartis’ generics and biosimilar biz Sandoz. The pact could have an extra $165 million thrown in if Novartis takes up the option on both drugs, though Molecular Partners will forgo royalties in lower-income countries, should they gain approval, to help lower costs.  

Supply Chains Will Become More Local in the Pharmaceutical Industry

Drug supply chains may become less global as a result of the pandemic, according to the chief executive of a pharmaceutical manufacturer.  Martin Meeson, CEO of Fujifilm Diosynth Biotechnologies, told CNBC’s “Squawk Box Europe” that drug companies were working to make sure people had access to medicine.

“I think there might be a slightly more local focus as we move forward, maybe just a little bit of a lengthening of some those supply chains, but I think that the whole of the sector has worked really well to make sure that those medicines are continuing to flow to the people and the patients that need them,” Meeson said on Monday. At the start of the pandemic some experts warned of a temporary drug shortage in the U.S. Drug supply chains are often global, with China being the largest supplier of active pharmaceutical ingredients around the world. Meanwhile, India provides around 40% to 50% of all generic drugs in the U.S., according to B&K Securities analyst Rohit Bhat.

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