Pharmaceutical giant Novartis has spent $480 million on two major acquisitions, beefing up its development pipeline for new products.
The Swiss company has bought an incontinence drug from its American rival Pfizer and purchased a majority stake in biotechnology firm Idenix Pharmaceuticals.
Novartis will pay $225 million (SFr295 million) for Pfizer's Enablex, which should reach markets in the United States and the European Union in 2004, if regulators give the go-ahead.
It is estimated that there are around 17 million people suffering from incontinence in the US, and between 50 and 200 million worldwide.
Novartis has also acquired for $255 million a 51 per cent stake in Idenix, a group that specialises in antiviral drugs. The privately owned company is based in Cambridge, Massachusetts.
The Swiss firm has also acquired exclusive rights to collaborate on all the drug candidates in Idenix's portfolio, including a selection of potential hepatitis treatments.
Upon signing the deal, Novartis made an upfront licensing payment of $75 million for hepatitis B compounds, two of which are undergoing clinical development.
Further payments will be made on the condition that certain targets are met by Idenix for its drug development and approval.
Hepatitis B claims over a million lives each year, according to Novartis, and current treatments are associated with major resistance or side effects.
swissinfo with agencies