Novartis says it has signed a deal £227 million dollar deal with Arrow Therapeutics of the UK, which gives it the rights to develop and commercialise A-60444 – a first-in-class therapy in development for the treatment of respiratory syncytial virus infections, the most common respiratory virus in infants.

Under the terms of the agreement, Arrow will receive an upfront payment of $10 million in addition to milestone payments of up to $217 million. Novartis in turn obtains the rights to A-60444 in addition to the rights to back-up compounds and a right of first negotiation on follow-up compounds. A-60444 is in Phase I/II clinical trials and Arrow completed a Phase I dose escalating pharmacodynamics, safety and tolerability study in healthy volunteers last year.

Novartis notes that RSV is an area of high unmet medical need as current treatment options are limited, with no RSV-specific anti-virals currently available. The only commonly used treatment option is used to prevent infection in high-risk infants and has limited efficacy.

RSV affects up to 70% of all infants during the first year of life. It causes infection of the lungs and breathing passages and is the leading cause of infant hospitalisation, bronchiolitis and pneumonia. It can also cause severe lower respiratory tract disease at any age, especially among the elderly, patients with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and immuno-compromised persons, such as transplant and cancer patients. RSV can cause long-term health problems, such as asthma, and, in severe cases, RSV infection can be fatal.