Novartis eyes vaccines with Protez purchase

Novartis is shelling out $400 million for antibiotics developer Protez Pharmaceuticals. Protez gets for $100 million up front and up to $300 million more if Protez's new broad-spectrum antibiotic is a success. The antibiotic, PZ-601, is in Phase II development and aims to treat multi-drug resistant bugs such as methicillin-resistant staphylococcus aureus (MRSA), which causes over 100,000 deaths in the U.S. and Europe annually.

The company has also been placing greater strategic emphasis on vaccine development, announcing today that it will start an anti-ulcer vaccine trial before year-end. The vaccine, which is in Phase I trials, will attempt to prevent recipients from acquiring Helicobacter pylori, a bug responsible for stomach ulcers. Novartis also has a candidate vaccine for Group B Streptococcus in Phase I trials and another for Group A Streptococcus slated to enter Phase I trials in 2010, along with a pneumococcal vaccine. Vaccines against meningococcal infections are in late stage development as well.

"The addition of Protez and its pipeline, including PZ-601, to our existing initiatives will further strengthen our position in the specialty field of hospital infections while helping to address the public health challenges of increasing bacterial resistance and high mortality rates," said Novartis' Joe Jimenez.

- see Novartis' release
- read the report from Forbes