Molecular Partners is collaborating with the Basel-based pharmaceutical giant Novartis on its two therapeutic candidates for potential use against Covid-19. Novartis has been granted an option to in-license the global rights of Molecular Partners’ two antiviral therapeutic candidates, MP0420 and MP0423.
Molecular Partners will commence Phase 1 and Phase 2 trials of its DARPin therapeutics in November 2020. If the trials are successful, the candidates could receive emergency use approval. Should Novartis exercise its option, it would be responsible for further development, manufacturing, distribution and commercialization.
According to a press release, Molecular Partners will receive a cash payment of 20 million Swiss francs under the terms of the agreement. Novartis has also agreed to acquire CHF 40 million worth of ordinary shares with immediate effect. Molecular partners is eligible to receive a future milestone payment of CHF 150 million if Novartis exercises the option to both therapeutic candidates, as well as 22% royalty on sales. Molecular Partners announced that it will forgo royalties in lower income countries.
“Our team rapidly mobilized to deliver a unique DARPin-based approach to address the overwhelming need for effective therapeutics against COVID-19,” said Patrick Amstutz, CEO of Molecular Partners. “We have built on this long-term research with these two candidates, which have demonstrated extremely potent neutralization of the virus through inhibiting multiple viral mechanisms.”
DARPin therapeutics are a new class of custom-built protein therapeutics based on natural binding proteins. As Molecular Partners explains, these have several characteristics that make them ideally suited for antiviral therapy, “including multi-specific target binding with the potential to prevent viral escape via mutations, the possibility for subcutaneous administration, long half-life for sustained activity”, as well as the “potential to bypass cold storage”.
Unlike conventional monoclonal antibodies, DARPin therapeutics also make “simple, highly scalable bacterial fermentation feasible”. This means that these medicines can be made accessible to patients around the world as quickly as possible.
The Swiss government secured the right to purchase 200,000 doses of MP0240 in August, with the potential to purchase up to an addition 3 million doses.