Molecular Partners will receive an upfront payment of $65.97m, and an additional payment of $164.93m after the option period


Novartis tower with surrounding buildings. (Credit: Novartis AG.)

Novartis has reached an option and license agreement with Molecular Partners to develop, manufacture and commercialise the latter’s DARPin programme against Covid-19, which includes two therapeutic candidates MP0420 and MP0423.

Under the terms of the agreement, Molecular Partners will receive an upfront payment of CHF60m ($65.97m), and an additional payment of CHF150m ($164.93m), after Novartis electing the option to both therapeutic candidates, along with royalty on sales.

Also, the biotech company will conduct Phase 1 clinical studies for MP0420, starting from next month, and undertake all the remaining preclinical work for MP0423, and sponsor the Phase 2 and Phase 3 clinical trials, to be conducted by Novartis.

The Swiss drugmaker will be responsible for all further development and commercialisation activities while Molecular Partners will provide clinical supply during the clinical development stage.

Molecular Partners chief executive officer Patrick Amstutz said: “Our team rapidly mobilised to deliver a unique DARPin-based approach to address the overwhelming need for effective therapeutics against Covid-19.

“As a class, DARPins have demonstrated over years of clinical research a number of characteristics that enhance their profile as antiviral therapeutics for a global pandemic.

“We have built on this long-term research with these two candidates, which have demonstrated extremely potent neutralisation of the virus through inhibiting multiple viral mechanisms.

“We are thrilled to partner with Novartis, who has shown great commitment to combatting this pandemic and bringing innovative solutions to people around the world.”

Novartis, Molecular Partners to develop DARPin therapies against Covid-19

Molecular Partners is a Switzerland-based clinical-stage biotechnology company, focused on developing advanced custom-built protein therapeutics, dubbed DARPin therapeutics.

Novartis said that as part of its global efforts to combat the Covid-19 pandemic, it has undertaken the development of medicines with the potential to treat the virus, in addition to the development of vaccines.

The collaboration will combine Molecular Partners’ DARPin technologies with Novartis’ wide-ranging expertise in drug development, regulatory affairs, manufacturing and commercialisation.

DARPin therapeutics feature advanced features, including multi-specific target binding, potential to prevent viral escape via mutations, subcutaneous administration, the long half-life, high-yield, high production scalability in bacterial fermenters.

The collaboration is set to scale-up manufacturing capacity, under collaboration with Sandoz, the generics and Novartis’ biosimilar division, to facilitate the global supply of the therapies.

Novartis chief executive officer Vas Narasimhan said: “Novartis remains unwavering in its support for tackling Covid-19 and 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.

“This Swiss led partnership, which could deliver both prophylactic and treatment options at scale for Covid-19 patients across the globe, is another demonstration of our sustained commitment to addressing one of the greatest health challenges of our time.”