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Novartis has agreed a deal with Enanta Pharmaceuticals to license their experimental hepatitis C drug EDP-239.

Switzerland-based Novartis will pay an upfront fee of $34m to license the drug, although Enanta could receive a further $406m in milestone payments, with the US-based pharmaceutical company eligible to receive double-digit royalties.

Enanta will also retain co-marketing rights for the drug in the US.

Under the terms of the agreement, Novartis will be responsible for costs associated with the drug’s development, manufacture and commercialisation, with the drug due to progress into clinical trials after the US Food and Drug Administration approved a New Drug Application (NDA).

Enanta chief executive Jay Luly heralded the drug’s safety profile, adding that EDP-239’s profile is amenable to once-a-day dosing in humans.

"We believe EDP-239 has great potential as a potent ingredient in combination drug therapy and our preclinical studies have demonstrated high potency against multiple genotypes of the virus," Luly added.

The deal is the latest in a string of investments from big pharmaceutical companies into the HCV market, following Gilead’s $11bn acquisition of Pharmasset and Bristol Myers-Squibb’s $2.5bn purchase of Inhibitex.


Image: Novartis’ headquarters, located in Basel, Switzerland. Credit: Novartis