BIOTEC and NOVARTIS Extends Drug Discovery Partnership

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BIOTEC and NOVARTIS Extends Drug Discovery Partnership

Bangkok, Thailand, July 16, 2008 – Buoyed by the positive and encouraging results achieved by their Phase 1 Cooperation, Novartis, a world leader in pharmaceutical research and drug discovery, and the Thai government agency, BIOTEC, have agreed to take their partnership to the next level with the signing of the Phase II Cooperation that spans over a 3-year period, from June 2008- May 2011.

This partnership, conceived in 2005, is based on the complementary expertise of both parties. The key aim is to find potential use of microorganisms and natural compounds derived from microorganisms as sources for innovative medicines.

“At Novartis, we believe that collaboration, both with private and public sector entities globally, is critical in facilitating the drug discovery process” said Alexandre F. Jetzer, Member, Board of Directors, Novartis. “Thailand has a pool of talents within the scientific community and a strong knowledge base and we believe in Thailand’s potential as an investment destination for R&D.”

Under the agreement, BIOTEC will share microorganisms and purified natural compounds with Novartis which will then undertake a full drug discovery and development program. Retaining ownership of these microorganisms and natural compounds, BIOTEC will continue to evaluate them in BIOTEC’s core research program, which are outside the scope of Novartis, in such areas as tuberculosis, malaria, industrial enzyme, and biocontrols.

Dedicated to fostering a culture of openness, scientific excitement and collaboration, Novartis strives to improve the process of drug discovery by pursuing a comprehensive, multi-disciplinary approach that integrates novel concepts and tools across multiple disease areas.

“New medicines do not appear overnight,” added Dr. Frank Petersen, Executive Director Natural Products Unit of Novartis Institutes for BioMedical Research. “The interface of the chemical, biological, and pharmacological universes is a highly complex and challenging place to work, worthy of the best minds and most innovative scientists.” On average, it takes 14 years and a budget of USD 1,5 billion to develop one medicine.

Since its inception, the partnership has investigated as many as 2500 microbial isolates and 70 pure compounds found locally, and many have proven their ability to produce new compounds.

Dr. Kanyawim Kirtikara, BIOTEC Executive Director, said “In addition to the research collaboration, capacity building is an element of focus in this partnership. This is will be achieved through internships of BIOTEC scientists in the research laboratories at Novartis Switzerland as well as through lab courses and seminars given by Novartis experts at BIOTEC. This partnership has also enabled BIOTEC to automate and improve its extraction and chemical screening systems. Expertise in taxonomy and isolation of certain types of microorganisms acquired during the partnership has enabled BIOTEC to discover 2,000 more microbial strains.”

Moreover, this partnership reflects the principles dictated by the United Nation Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) regarding sustainable use and equitable benefit sharing. “In January 2008, BIOTEC and Novartis representatives were invited to the United Nations in Geneva to present this research partnership, where it was recognized as a model on how to explore potential uses of biodiversity while transforming it into mutual benefits”, added Dr. Frank Petersen.

Dr. Sakarindr Bhumiratana, President of the National Science and Technology Development Agency (NSTDA) said, “NSTDA is committed to support and facilitate the research and development for social and economic benefit of the nation. It has long been NSTDA’s interest to collaborate with foreign partners in research and development and this BIOTEC-Novartis Partnership signifies the principle of equal partnership that we have been striving for.”

As in the past, the cooperation will be managed by a Joint Steering Committee (JSC) consisting of scientists and executives from both parties.

“I am very excited to see great success from the initial collaboration which has lead to further R&D investments by Novartis in Thailand” concluded Sirilak Suteekul, Country President of Novartis Thailand.

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About BIOTEC
The National Center for Genetic Engineering and Biotechnology (BIOTEC), founded in 1983, is one of four technology centers under the auspices of the National Science and Technology Development Agency (NSTDA), an autonomous government agency. The Center is a leading research institute in Thailand and the region, with over 30 laboratories and 150 principle scientists conducting basic and applied research covering a wide spectrum from agricultural science to biomedical science and environmental science. BIOTEC has three research units located at Thailand Science Park and about ten specialized laboratories situated in universities and government agencies across the country. More information about BIOTEC is available at http://www.biotec.or.th
 
About Novartis
Novartis AG (NYSE: NVS) is a world leader in pharmaceuticals and consumer health. In 2007, the Group's businesses achieved sales (excluding divestments in 2007) of USD 38.1 billion and a net income of USD 6.5 billion. The Group invested approximately USD 6.4 billion in R&D. Headquartered in Basel, Switzerland, Novartis Group companies employ about 90,000 people and operate in over 55 countries around the world.
 
 
In Thailand, Novartis employs more than 400 people and offers a wide range of healthcare products across different segments, including innovative medicine, high-quality generics, animal health, self-medication and eye-care. Further information about Novartis is available at http://www.novartis.com

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Dr. Kanyawim Kirtikara (3rd left), Executive Director of National Center for Genetic Engineering and Biotechnology (BIOTEC), along with Mr. Alexandre Jetzer (1st right), Member of the Board of Directors of Novartis AG, and Khun Sirilak Suteekul (3rd right), Country President of Novartis (Thailand) Limited, jointly announced an extension of BIOTEC-Novartis Drug Discovery Partnership at the Press Conference held on 16 July 2008. The event was presided over by H.E. Mr. Rodolphe Imhoof (center), Swiss Ambassador to Thailand

  

Posted on 16 July 2008.

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