Novartis working on pan-coronavirus oral treatment, CEO says

COVID-19 treatments with research ongoing for a pill that could work broadly against coronaviruses

  
Swiss drugmaker Novartis' logo is seen at the company's plant in the northern Swiss town of Stein, Switzerland October 23, 2017.

Swiss drugmaker Novartis' logo is seen at the company's plant in the northern Swiss town of Stein, Switzerland October 23, 2017.

REUTERS/Arnd Wiegmann

Novartis hopes to still play a role in the development of COVID-19 treatments with research ongoing for a pill that could work broadly against coronaviruses, not just the one that causes COVID-19, chief executive Vas Narasimhan told Reuters.

In an interview following his recent presentation at Total Health last week, the head of the Swiss drugmaker pointed to Novartis' manufacturing support to COVID-19 vaccine and drug makers when asked if it had been on the sidelines during the pandemic.

"Now I would have loved for some of our own clinical trials to have worked out, but they didn't. I mean, that's part of the deal," Narasimhan said.

"I think we as a sector have collaborated extremely well to ultimately be the industry that enabled this pandemic over time to eventually be under control."

Many drugmakers including AstraZeneca sold treatments at cost during the pandemic, but are now looking to start making profits as some parts of the world reopen.

"I think in order to have companies invest in the long run for pandemic preparedness, there has to be a reasonable economic benefit to the companies," Narasimhan said. "I think that has to be clear and understood by all involved."

Novartis last year had signed a deal with Molecular Partners to develop two DARPin-based therapies as potential COVID-19 treatments.

A new readout from studies of one of those treatments is expected in January, and the duo will then decide on next steps based on that data, Narasimhan said.

The company last week said it was confident of delivering annual revenue growth of 4% or higher until 2026, as it banks on multi-billion dollar sales of experimental and approved drugs including arthritis and psoriasis medicine Cosentyx. 

(Reporting by Pushkala Aripaka in Bengaluru, Editing by Louise Heavens) ((Pushkala.A@thomsonreuters.com; Twitter: @pullthekart; Mobile: +91 852 751 3793 ;))


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