Novartis in-licenses COVID-19 treatment ensovibep from Molecular Partners

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ZURICH, Jan 10 (Reuters) - Novartis (NOVN.S)said it will license in a new drug it has been developing with Molecular Partners to treat COVID-19, the Swiss company said on Monday, after getting positive trial data.

Novartis will pay 150 million Swiss francs ($162.92 million) to in-license ensovibep from Molecular Partners to speed up its manufacturing ramp up and get approvals for the drug more quickly.

The decision comes after the two companies said they had received positive topline data from a phase 2 study for ensovibep (mp0420), an antiviral therapeutic for COVID-19 that will from now on be developed and manufactured by Novartis.

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Molecular Partners had already received an upfront payment of 60 million francs, including equity.

The DARPin (Designed Ankyrin Repeat Protein) antiviral therapeutic candidate met the primary endpoint of viral load reduction over eight days in a study in acute COVID-19 ambulatory patients comparing single intravenous doses of ensovibep versus placebo, the two companies said in a statement.

The two secondary endpoints also showed a clinically meaningful benefit compared with a placebo, the partners said.

Novartis will first seek the approval from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), where it is applying for an Emergency Use Authorization (EUA).

DARPins offer a differentiated approach to treating COVID-19 through a single molecule that can engage up to three parts of the SARS-CoV-2 virus simultaneously to neutralize the virus through multiple mechanisms, Molecular Partners said on its website.

($1 = 0.9207 Swiss francs)

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Reporting by Silke Koltrowitz Editing by Riham Alkousaa and John Revill

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