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Novartis to acquire Speedel 

Basel, Switzerland – Novartis has announced that it intends to acquire Speedel, the company that holds the rights to the renin inhibitor aliskiren (Tekturna/Rasilez), which Novartis already markets as an antihypertensive under a license agreement [1].

With the acquisition, Novartis would gain greater flexibility and speed in the development of aliskiren, which is now being included in various combination antihypertensive products, without having to make royalty and other manufacturing fee payments to Speedel, Novartis said in a press release. Novartis will also gain access to Speedel's drug pipeline, which includes two other direct renin inhibitors in early clinical development and an aldosterone synthase inhibitor in preclinical development for various cardiovascular diseases.

Novartis says the Speedel's R&D pipeline is a strong fit with its own "leading global position" in cardiovascular disease. The full acquisition of Speedel, excluding the 9.7% stake held by Novartis before these transactions, is expected to cost CHF 907 million ($880 million).

Speedel was founded in 1998 by its current executive, Dr Alice Huxley, who worked on the early development of aliskiren at Novartis. Novartis decided not to continue development of the drug, so Huxley started her own company to continue work on the drug with financial support from Novartis. Novartis then relicensed marketing rights to aliskiren and conducted phase 3 trials that led to US and European approvals in 2007.

Aliskiren had US sales of $47 million in the first five months of 2008, but Novartis is hoping to build sales so that the drug will someday replace its angiotensin receptor blocker (ARB) valsartan (Diovan), which generated revenues of $5.01 billion in 2007. Diovan loses patent protection in the US in 2012, but competition from generic versions of Merck's ARB losartan (Cozaar) may start as early as 2010, newspaper reports note.

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