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.
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.