Novartis secures share in US6.8bn market for hepatitis C inhibitors
Basel/Watertown – Swiss Novartis AG has bought a global exclusive licence from Enanta Pharmaceutical Inc. to commercialise drug candidates that help fight off the hepatitis C virus (HCV), which affects 170 million people worldwide. Under the terms of the agreement, Enanta will advance its lead candidate NS5A into clinical development. The firm, which has already gotten IND approval for its HCV replication blocker, will receive an upfront payment of US$34m and milestones that could sum up to US$406m in case of full commercialisation as well as double-digit royalties on global sales. Its picomolar NS5A blocker is a follower to Bristol MyersSquibb’s Phase I first-in-class molecule BMS790052, which seems to address a patient group that is complementary to that of the current standard of care Peg-interferon plus ribavirin. According to experts, NS5A blockers cannot completely replace standard treatment because they are not able to fully eradicate the virus resulting in rapid development of drug resistance. However, they seem to have the potential to broaden the patient group that can benefit from a combination therapy of NS5A blockers plus Peg-interferon and ribavirin. The current standard of care clears most infections with HCV genotype 2 and 3 but succeeds in less than 50% of the patients with genotype 1. According to analyses from Research & Markets the HCV market is to grow annually by about 10% and will reach US$8.6bn in sales in 2016.