Novartis Sees MorphoSys Muscle-Atrophy Drug as Exciting

Novartis AG’s Head of Development Tim Wright said the collaboration with MorphoSys AG on the BYM338 antibody for diseases that lead to muscle atrophy is one of two projects in mid-stage trials that he’s most excited about.

Wright named the treatment, along with Novartis’s LDK378 cancer therapy, during a conference call when asked about compounds in mid-stage testing that may gain a higher profile. BYM338 blocks a substance named myostatin that is linked to muscle growth, the executive of Europe’s biggest drugmaker said on the call arranged by Tim Anderson, an analyst at Sanford C. Bernstein & Co.

“This is an enormous opportunity,” Simon Moroney, chief executive officer of German biotechnology company MorphoSys, said in an interview last week.

BYM338 is being tested for ailments such as cachexia, the weight and muscle loss that is often found in patients with diseases such as cancer and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.

“Imagine the equivalent of eight or 10 weeks of exercise in one injection,” Wright said on the call.

The drug is also in testing for a rare inherited disease called sporadic inclusion body myositis, and Basel, Switzerland-based Novartis plans to expand trials for complaints such as age-related muscle wasting, Wright said. The treatment may be filed for regulatory approval in 2016, he said.

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