Novartis has linked up with Portola Pharmaceuticals in a deal which gives the Swiss major the exclusive worldwide rights to the US biotechnology firm’s investigational anti-clotting compound elinogrel.

Under the terms of the deal for elinogrel, which is in Phase II studies, Novartis is making an upfront payment of $75 million and will share with Portola the costs of the ongoing trial. The privately-owned firm will also be eligible for additional milestones and royalties and has an option to co-promote elinogrel in the USA limited to hospitals and specialty markets.

The 800-patient Phase IIb trial, initiated in December, involves intravenous and oral forms of elinogrel being tested in patients undergoing non-urgent surgery to repair a damaged blood vessel or to unblock a coronary artery (percutaneous coronary intervention). The trial involves a head-to-head assessment with Sanofi-Aventis/Bristol-Myers Squibb’s blockbuster Plavix (clopidogrel) and further studies are planned in patients with acute coronary syndromes and more broadly in patients with a prior heart attack or stroke, and those with peripheral vascular disease.

Trevor Mundel, head of development at Novartis Pharma, noted that more than 13 million people die every year from complications related to blood clots, “which underscores the ongoing and significant unmet need”. He added that "elinogrel is a novel compound with attributes that have the potential to offer clinical benefits over currently-approved antiplatelet therapies.”

Novartis said that elinogrel has an instant onset of action that could quickly provide protection from clotting. Its effect is also reversible, “which may offer physicians a way to rapidly reverse its anti-clotting actions when necessary”, the firm added.