Swiss drugmaker Novartis AG will pay German biotech firm MorphoSys about $600 million as part of a 10-year deal to discover and develop drugs based on human antibodies.

Novartis signs deal with MorphoSys to discover and develop antibodies for $ 600 m. Novartis AG will pay German biotech firm MorphoSys about $600 million as part of a 10-year deal to discover and develop drugs based on human antibodies. According to Novartis, total payments could be more than $1 billion, depending on milestones contingent on successful clinical development and market approval of products.

Novartis will have almost exclusive access to MorphoSys' human antibody libraries and any future improvements made during the collaboration.The deal is an expansion of an existing collaboration, which was struck in 2004. Novartis has the option to prolong the deal for another two years, or to conclude it after seven years in certain limited circumstances. MorphoSys will also fully transfer a copy of its antibody libraries and technologies to Novartis research sites.

Fully human therapeutic antibodies avoid the use of animal material to reduce to risk of any adverse patient reactions. Currently marketed antibody drugs have helped revolutionise treatment of disease such as rheumatoid arthritis and certain cancers, but their use is limited by their large molecular size, which means they must be given by injection or infusion.

Novartis has been building its position in the research and development of all biologic therapies, which use natural body substances, and now represent a quarter of the company's preclinical research pipeline. Novartis' top-seller, blood pressure drug Diovan, goes off patent in 2012.