Novartis to acquire Protez in $400 million deal


BASEL, Switzerland Novartis will buy Protez Pharmaceuticals in a deal worth up to $400 million that will strengthen the company’s portfolio of drugs in development for the treatment of hospital infections, according to published reports. According to the Center for Disease Control, hospital acquired infections occur in 1.7 million patients annually and account for 50 percent of all major hospital complications.

Novartis plans to fully acquire Protez for an initial payment of $100 million, with a potential for additional payments of up to $300 million, which are contingent upon success of the acquired company’s lead-drug, named PZ-601.

Novartis said Protez recently started a phase 2 clinical trial involving 100 patients on the drug, which is an antibiotic that promises to work against potentially fatal drug-resistant infections, so-called superbugs. If it passes testing successfully, the drug may enter the market in about five years, analysts say.

PZ-601 is a new antibiotic in a class of agents known as carbapenems. Medicines in this class are useful in treating life-threatening infections caused by Gram-negative and Gram-positive bacteria. PZ-601, which is administered by injection, was shown to have a broad spectrum of activity that could work against multidrug-resistant bacteria including MRSA, or methicillin resistant staphylococcus aureus, strains that are becoming an increasing public health challenge.

Separately, the drug maker gave an update on its emerging vaccines pipeline, saying it has several novel vaccines in early stage development that will be complementing the two meningitis vaccines, Menveo and MenB, that it plans to file for regulatory approval in 2009 and 2010, respectively.

The early-stage products include one for the prevention of Helicobacter pylori infections, a major cause of gastritis that can lead to gastric ulcers and gastric cancer. A second experimental vaccine, against Group B Streptococcus, has the potential to protect against 85 percent of neonatal sepsis and meningitis, Novartis said.

The company plans to open a new research site with up to 250 scientists in Cambridge, Mass., later in 2008 that will focus on viral vaccine discovery.

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