Novartis seeks out-licensing partners as it exits antibiotics R&D

By Flora Southey

- Last updated on GMT

(Image: Getty/anyaivanova)
(Image: Getty/anyaivanova)
Novartis says it will discontinue antibacterial and antiviral research to free-up resources for core focus areas.

While the science for these programmes is ‘compelling’, the Swiss firm said it had “decided to prioritise…resources into other areas.”

As a result, Novartis is “actively engaged” ​in out-licensing discussions with firms looking to advance its antibacterial and antiviral development programmes.

In particular, the firm is seeking partners to advance programmes aimed at combatting multi-drug resistant gram-negative bacteria, including preclinical programmes and LYS228 – a candidate under investigation for the treatment of complicated, intra-abdominal infections.

Novartis’ generics medicines unit, Sandoz, will continue to manufacture antibiotics. The Swiss drugmaker also said it remains actively engaged in combatting antimicrobial resistance (AMR) – whereby a microorganism becomes resistant to an antimicrobial medicine.

According to Novartis, it “will continue to [ensure] access to critical existing antimicrobials, [ensure] responsible and appropriate use of existing antimicrobials, and [drive] responsible manufacturing standards, including the application of consistent Health Safety & Environment [HSE] standards in manufacturing to address environmental sources of AMR,” ​the firm said in a statement.

However, Novartis’ retreat from the antibiotics research space could be perceived as a hindrance to the development of new antibiotics. “A lack of effective antibiotics is as serious as a security threat as a sudden and deadly disease outbreak,” ​said the World Health Organaisation’s Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus in a statement​.

In 2015​, another major pharmaceutical company, AstraZeneca, also announced plans to spin out its antibiotics R&D unit – into a separate, standalone subsidiary.

Streamlined developments

Novartis’ decision is the latest in a list of divestments made to streamline activities in recent months. In October last year​, the firm announced plans to close Sandoz’ oral solid dose manufacturing facility in Broomfield, Colorado.

In March 2018​, Novartis sold its stake in consumer healthcare join venture with GlaxoSmithKline, to invest $13bn (€11bn) into its core pharmaceutical business, and two months later​, we reported the firm had sold its injectable medicines site and development centre in Boucherville, Canada, to contract development and manufacturing organisation (CDMO) Avara Pharmaceutical Services.

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