Novartis signs $50-m deal with Mesoblast for Covid, respiratory diseases treatment

Reuters Zurich | Updated on November 20, 2020


‘It has the potential to be the first treatment for the most critically ill ARDS patients’

Novartis aims to boost its respiratory treatment portfolio with a $50-million deal for an off-the-shelf cell therapy from Mesoblast that it hopes to deploy for Covid-19 patients as well as others suffering from respiratory distress.

The Swiss drugmaker’s deal with Australia-based Mesoblast secures rights to develop, commercialise and manufacture Remestemcel-L for treating acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS), including that associated with Covid-19, for which the therapy is currently in late-stage trials.

Also read: Novartis CEO says it’ll take more than vaccines to fight Covid-19

While the therapy has shown promise in Covid-19 patients— in a compassionate use programme in March in 12 patients, Remestemcel-L was associated with an 83 per cent survival rate — Novartis wants the medicine for beyond the pandemic, too, to help patients who in normal times also land in the hospital with ARDS and often die.

“It has the potential to be the first treatment for the most critically ill ARDS patients, and it provides us with an opportunity to apply years of specialised experience directly to the work of saving lives,” Novartis's chief drug developer, John Tsai, said on Friday.

Unlike Kymriah, Novartis's cancer cell therapy, Remestemcel-L does not have to be tailored for each patient. Once the deal is closed, Novartis said it is planning to help Mesoblast work on quality attributes of the therapy so it meets US Food and Drug Administration requirements necessary for late-stage trial beyond Covid-19.

Published on November 20, 2020

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