Novartis’ Sandoz division is buying the generic injectable oncology business of Austria’s EBEWE Pharma.

The Swiss major is paying 925 million euros in cash and noted that EBEWE's injectable neurological products business is excluded from the deal. However it does include generic versions of paclitaxel, epirubicin, methotrexate, oxaliplatin, carboplatin, doxorubicin and gemcitabine, “essential components of standard-of-care guidelines for treating many types of cancers”, Novartis noted.

Independent since 2001, following a management buyout, EBEWE has been delivering 20% sales growth since 2006. Turnover last year reached 188 million euros, while operating income was 53 million euros.

Novartis chief executive Daniel Vasella said that the addition of these oncology medicines “fits our strategy and improves our ability to help cancer patients around the world by providing easier access to therapies”. He noted that EBEWE brings with it “many planned near-term launches”.

Sandoz noted that it will form a new global centre of excellence around the new business, which will be based in Unterach, Austria and be led by EBEWE chief executive Friedrich Hillebrand. He said that as the world market for generic injectables to treat cancer continues to expand, “our specialty generics business will enjoy a much broader global reach as part of Sandoz”.

Signs option to acquire Elixir
Novartis has also entered into an agreement with Elixir Pharmaceuticals and been granted an exclusive option to acquire the Massachusetts-based firm depending on the success of the latter’s investigational type 2 diabetes drug.

The deal is dependent on the successful completion of a Phase IIa trial of Elixir’s lead oral ghrelin antagonist, which is currently in preclinical studies. Including the initial acquisition payment, plus potential additional regulatory and sales milestone payments, the deal with Novartis could be worth more than $500 million. The agreement also gives the Swiss major an exclusive worldwide license, “under pre-agreed conditions”.

New therapeutic options “for this serious and chronic disease are sorely needed,” said Paul Martha, Elixir’s chief executive. As such, he added that “we are extremely pleased to have reached agreement with Novartis on the tremendous potential value of our ghrelin antagonism programme.”

In addition to oral ghrelin antagonists, Elixir has two candidates, Metgluna (metformin-mitiglinide) and Glinsuna (mitiglinide) which have recently completed Phase III trials for the treatment of type 2 diabetes. The company is also developing EX-1314, an oral drug for gastro-intestinal hypomotility disorders, including type 1 diabetic gastroparesis.

News of the deal comes a week after Elixir abandoned plans for an initial public offering which was hoping to raise over $86 million. At the time, the company said that it was pulling the IPO due to difficult market conditions.

As well as disclosing Novartis’ interest, Elixir also announced it has completed a $12 million equity financing, led by MPM Capital.