Novartis has linked up with US firm GenVec to develop treatments for hearing loss and balance disorders.

Under the terms, GenVec will receive a $5 million upfront payment and the Swiss major has also purchased $2 million of its shares. If certain clinical, regulatory and sales milestones are met, GenVec is eligible to receive up to $213.6 million, in addition to royalties.

The pact centres around preclinical results which suggest that delivery of the atonal gene using GenVec’s adenovector technology “may have the potential to restore hearing and balance function”. The Gaithersburg, Maryland-based firm’s chief executive, Paul Fischer, said that “hearing loss is a significant and growing problem for millions of people” and “our technology has great promise”.

Meantime, Novartis is celebrating the news that three of its key new products have been given the green light in Japan.

Japan's Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare has approved Equa (vildagliptin), marketed as Galvus in the European Union, for the treatment of type 2 diabetes, Exforge (valsartan/amlodipine) for high blood pressure, and Afinitor (everolimus) for advanced kidney cancer. Joe Jimenez, chief executive of Novartis Pharma, noted that these approvals, which follow six launches last year, “mean we continue to quickly introduce innovative medicines to treat serious and life-threatening diseases affecting millions of Japanese patients”.