Novartis exits antibacterial, antiviral research

Novartis will close its antibacterial and antiviral research operations in Emeryville, California as part of CEO Vas Narasimhan's plans to narrow the drugmaker's R&D focus. Spokesman Ryan McBride said while "there is a commercial market for these medicines…we do not believe that in the context of our broader portfolio and commercial structure that we are the right company to develop them further."

Spokeswoman Sofina Mirza-Reid added that Novartis made the decision, which will result in the loss of about 140 jobs, to "prioritise our resources in other areas where we believe we are better positioned to develop innovative medicines." Mirza-Reid indicated that the drugmaker is in discussions with other companies specialising in such treatments to license its programmes.

A spokesman also noted that Don Ganem, who joined Novartis in 2010 to lead the infectious diseases unit, is leaving the company. Meanwhile, the drugmaker will retain its Institute for Tropical Diseases in Emeryville, along with a number of other units, with Mirza-Reid noting that the site will employ about 150 people following the cuts.

Other drugmakers have also exited the infectious disease space, with agreeing in 2016 to sell its small-molecule antibiotics business to Pfizer for up to $1.6 billion. Meanwhile, Allergan disclosed plans in May to sell its infectious disease business following the completion of a strategic review.

For further analysis, see ViewPoints: Novartis drops the mic on microbials.

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