Swiss drug major Novartis has bought the global rights to Japanese group Kyorin Pharmaceutical’s preclinical immunosuppressant candidate, KRP-203.

Under the terms of the deal, Novartis gains sole marketing and development rights to the drug for use in preventing organ transplant rejection, as well as exclusive rights worldwide except Japan, South Korea, China and Taiwan for autoimmune and other disease indications. Kyorin is due an up-front fee as well as subsequent milestone payments and sales-based royalties.

From Kyorin’s point of view, the move is designed to speed up the approval of KRP-203, by adding the financial and developmental muscle that a pharmaceutical major can offer. On the other side of the coin, Novartis has gained another promising candidate to bolster its traditional stronghold in in the field of immunosuppressants following the patent expiry of its once blockbuster Sandimmun/Neoral (cyclosporine).

The Swiss group seems to have been on a bit of a spending spree of late. In October last year, US vaccines maker Chiron accepted the firm’s purchase bid of $5.1 billion. Then Novartis made headlines last November with its $520 million-deal for US group Astex’ cancer drug, and shortly after the company won US over-the-counter rights to the anti-ulcer drug Prevacid (lansoprazole) from Tap Pharmaceuticals.