Drug Research
Drug Discovery & Development

Novartis exercises option with Conatus for NASH treatment

PBR Staff Writer Published 05 May 2017

Novartis has exercised its option with ConatusPharmaceuticals for an exclusive license for the worldwide development and commercialization of emricasan, a potential treatment for non-alcoholic steatohepatitis (NASH).

Emricasan is an investigational, oral and pan-caspase inhibitor intended to treat NASH with advanced fibrosis (scarring) and cirrhosis.

It has been evaluated in around 650 patients in 16 clinical trials across a range of liver diseases, to date.

In December 2016, Novartis had signed an exclusive option, collaboration and license agreement with Conatus for the worldwide development and commercialization of Conatus’ emricasan.

The option will be effective, after securing all required anti-trust approvals and payment of $7m option exercise fee to Conatus. The deal will allow Conatus to receive up to $50m upfront payment from Novartis.   

It follows the commencement of the Conatus’ Phase IIb ENCORE-LF trial, which will assess emricasan in patients with decompensated liver cirrhosis caused by NASH.

The collaboration holds capability to expand treatment options for people in various stages of fatty liver disease.

Novartis is engaged in the development of Farnesoid X receptor (FXR) agonists for the treatment of chronic liver diseases.

Under the deal, Conatus will carry out multiple Phase IIb clinical trials with emricasan in NASH.

Based on the positive results from the trials, Novartis will again carry out phase III studies of emricasan as a single treatment, in addition to development of combination therapies with an FXR agonist.

Novartis drug development global head and chief medical officer Vas Narasimhan said: "We are pleased to add another important medicine to our liver portfolio with emricasan, which has shown potential in patients with advanced fibrosis and cirrhosis.

"We look forward to advancing our broad portfolio of NASH and chronic liver disease programs to address this growing unmet need."

Image: Novartis Logo, Basel Headquarters. Photo: courtesy of Novartis AG.