Novartis pays $440m for HCV candidate – BASF calls time on lead chromate – And thumbs up for obesity drug

PHARMACEUTICAL – Novartis has signed a $440 million (£277 million) deal for rights to hepatitis C virus (HCV) candidate EDP-239 from privately-owned US drug discovery firm Enanta. EDP-239 is a small molecule candidate that targets a non-structural viral protein that is essential to viral replication – a protein called NS5A. Enanta will receive $34 million up front and later receive up to $406 million if and when milestones are passed.

PHARMACEUTICAL – AstraZeneca has won European marketing approval for anticancer drug Caprelsa (vandetanib) for treating medullary thyroid cancer (MTC). AstraZeneca says Caprelsa is the first drug approved in Europe for treating advanced MTC. It was approved in the US in April 2011. The drug is a kinase inhibitor – it blocks the blood supply to the tumour through the VEGF (vascular endothelial growth factor receptor) pathway and reduces the growth and survival of the tumour through the EGFR (epidermal growth factor receptor) pathway.

CHEMICAL – German chemical giant BASF has said it will stop making lead chromate pigments by the end of 2014. The company says that it has for a long time offered a wide range of alternatives but that customers in the coatings industry have so far resisted change. Lead chromate has a long history as a pigment compound, but both lead and hexavalent chromium are toxic and therefore unsuitable for many applications. Its use will be banned from 2015 without special authorisation as part of the Reach (registration, evaluation, authorisation and restriction of chemicals) regulation, which affects how chemicals are marketed in the EU.

CHEMICAL – More news from BASF. The company has struck a deal to buy the electrolytes for high performance batteries business of German chemical and pharma group Merck KGaA. The deal includes the electrolyte formulations marketed under the Selectilyte brand and electrolytes for lithium ion batteries, as well as the Merck research portfolio for novel electrolytes and additives. BASF has made several strong moves into the market for advanced batteries recently. Earlier this month, it bought Ovonic, a US company specialising in nickel–metal hydride battery technology, and in January it paid $50 million for a stake in privately owned US company Sion Power, which specialises in lithium–sulfur (Li–S) batteries.

PHARMACEUTICAL – Weight loss drug candidate QNexa (phentermine, topiramate) has won recommendation from a US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) expert committee, taking it one step nearer to becoming the first new weight loss drug to be approved in the US for over a decade. The committee voted 20 to 2 in favour of recommending QNexa from US biotech Vivus. QNexa was turned away by the FDA in October 2010. The FDA said at the time that more safety data were needed to assess whether the benefits outweighed the risks.

Andrew Turley

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