Novartis has completed its exit from the hepatitis C arena and given back the rights to alisporivir to fellow Swiss firm Debiopharm.

Debiopharm said it has regained full rights to alisporivir which is currently completing two Phase II studies as part of interferon-free treatment in HCV. The company believes the compound, a non-immunosuppressive cyclophilin inhibitor, has the potential to be used for other viral infections, certain muscular dystrophies, and myocardial infarction.

Novartis entered into a strategic collaboration with Debiopharm for alisporivir in January 2010 but decided last year that HCV would no longer be a strategic focus. In October, it pulled the plug on its HCV pact with Enanta Pharmaceuticals to develop EDP-239, an NS5A inhibitor, as monotherapy and in combination with alisporivir.

Debiopharm is still optimistic about the drug and says it has already started discussing link-ups  with potential partners. Chief scientific officer Andres McAllister claimed that  that “owing to its unique mode of action, alisporivir promises to be a useful additional tool to combine with other therapeutics in the treatment of HCV [and for] a variety of other potential indications”.