News Feature | December 26, 2014

Novartis Links With BiolineRX To Develop Israel-Made Drugs

By Estel Grace Masangkay

Israeli clinical-stage biopharmaceutical company BioLineRX announced that it has signed up Swiss pharma giant Novartis in a multi-year strategic collaboration to develop and commercialize Israeli-sourced drug candidates.

Under the terms of the agreement, Novartis will evaluate drug projects identified by BioLineRX as potential candidates for future licensing under the partnership. The partners will co-develop several pre-clinical and early clinical drugs through clinical proof-of-concept. Novartis has already made an initial equity investment in the Israeli pharmaceutical firm of $10 million, which translates to 12.8 percent of BioLineRX’s shares. Novartis will also pay BioLineRX an option fee of $5 million and will fund 50 percent of expected development costs related to clinical-proof-of-concept activities. The companies agreed to consider the payment in the form of an additional equity investment in BioLineRX. The partners said they intend to develop up to three programs under the collaboration.

Dr. Kinneret Savitsky, CEO of BioLineRx, said that its partnership with Novartis validates BioLineRX’s approach of selecting promising programs from Israel’s research institutions and biotech startups and developing the candidates toward commercialization. “This is a transformative collaboration for BioLineRx… Working closely with Novartis at relatively early stages of project development will enable us to tailor our development processes to meet their needs and expectations, helping to ensure agreed upon clinical goals are met successfully.”

Phil Serlin, BioLineRX’s CFO, explains the company’s approach to developing drug candidates to Times of Israel. “What many projects need is for someone to shepherd them through the middle stage – from initial proof of concept to a point where a pharmaceutical company could conceivably take a product to market after testing, and that’s what BiolineRX does… Usually we take a project that has been proven to work in the lab, on animals, and work with the developer, funding it and shopping it around until phase 2 tests show that the product is safe for humans. At that point, it is ready for phase 3 tests – the ones that will pass FDA and EMEA muster. That’s when we bring a pharmaceutical company into the picture, because at that time they’re more willing to take on the risk.”

The company is currently developing treatments for celiac disease, hepatitis C, acute myocardial infarction, diabetes, and asthma among others. Earlier this month, the company unveiled its clinical development plan for its platform for the treatment of hematological cancers licensed from BioKine Therapeutics.