Novartis grabs rights to eye drug in $494M deal

Belgian biotech ThromboGenics ($THR) has picked up a major partnership with the Alcon unit of Swiss drug giant Novartis ($NVS) for its experimental therapeutic for an eye ailment known as symptomatic vitreomacular adhesion, or VMA. And the deal with Alcon, which grants rights to market the eye drug outside the U.S., could be worth up to €375 million ($494 million) to ThromboGenics.

ThromboGenics, which has already wrapped successful Phase III trials for the drug, called ocriplasmin, gets an immediate cash infusion of €75 million ($98.8 million) in the Alcon partnership, helping fuel the developer's plans to market the drug on its own in the U.S. ThromboGenics aims to begin sales of the drug in the U.S. within the next year, the biotech company said today. The European Medicines Agency is reviewing the company's application for approval of ocriplasmin.

ThromboGenics plans to resubmit a BLA for approval of ocriplasmin in the U.S. by April. There are no approved meds to treat VMA, which can cause symptoms such as macular damage, and ThromboGenics estimates that the treatment could benefit more than 300,000 patients in Europe.

"There are thousands of symptomatic vitreomacular adhesion patients who currently do not have an available treatment option. The clinical results for ocriplasmin show improved visual function and that earlier intervention may limit the progression of the disease," said Kevin Buehler, division head of Alcon. "Ocriplasmin is a strategic fit for Alcon and is expected to further enhance our portfolio of innovative treatments for the eye."

In addition to the upfront fee and milestone payments, Alcon has also agreed to pay ThromboGenics unspecified milestones on sales of ocriplasmin.

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