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Swiss pharmaceutical company Novartis has exercised an option to in-licence ECF843 for ophthalmic indications across worldwide (outside Europe), as part of efforts to strengthen its R&D pipeline.

With this in-licensing, Novartis will be able to build up its experience in ophthalmology and dry eye treatments with a global portfolio of artificial tear products that include Systane, Tears Naturale and Genteal.

Developed by US-based Lubris, ECF843 is a recombinant form of human lubricin (rh-Lubricin) protein. Lubricin is an endogenous glycoprotein expressed in areas of high shear stress and friction, including the tear film.

The protein deficiency is observed in dry eye patients.

Novartis global head of drug development and chief medical officer Vasant Narasimhan said: “ECF843 has the potential to be the first therapeutic to provide rapid relief of dry eye symptoms and significantly improve signs.

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“Exercising our option to in-licence ECF843, along with our recent acquisition of Encore Medical for the treatment of presbyopia underscores our commitment to treating diseases of the front of the eye, which impact millions of people worldwide.”

“ECF843 has the potential to be the first therapeutic to provide rapid relief of dry eye symptoms and significantly improve signs.”

ECF843 is a new therapeutic approach and a potential Rx treatment in dry-eye, an area of high unmet medical need that impacts more than 344 million patients worldwide.

It is hypothesised to restore the tear film function, reduce friction and also relieve the signs and symptoms of dry eye.

Novartis combined its retina medicines business with the Alcon pharmaceuticals business last year.

The business is currently operating as one ophthalmology franchise under Novartis Pharmaceuticals.

Image: Novartis headquarters in Basel, Switzerland. Photo: courtesy of –Andrew- from Flickr.