Novartis quietly hands topical treatment for rare disease to LifeMax — latest in a string of out-licensing deals

The steady stream of outward deals flowing from Novartis made a rare disease turn today.

Palo Alto-based LifeMax Laboratories has licensed BPR277, a clinical stage ointment that treats a rare condition affecting the skin, hair and immune systems called Netherton syndrome. Caused by mutations in the SPINK5 gene, the disease can be life-threatening for newborns. Current treatments consist of various topical relief products and antibiotics with no FDA-approved products targeting the disease itself.

Larry Hsu

That’s exactly the type of diseases LifeMax is going after — those with few or no therapeutic options. In fact, its lead product, LM-030, is a topical treatment for the very condition. The company’s pipeline indicates that the asset is approaching Phase III.

As in the recent deals with Chinese biotechs Laekna and Adlai Nortye where Novartis cast off several cancer drugs, the terms were not disclosed.

Novartis had, from 2011 to 2014, run a two-part study first evaluating BRP277 safety then its efficacy in treating atopic dermatitis and Netherton syndrome, though the results could not be found on

In their announcement of the deal, LifeMax wrote the therapy comes with “positive clinical proof of concept.” We reached out to clarify how they might adjust their strategy based on the new asset; we will update the story when we hear back.

“We are very excited to enter into this licensing agreement with Novartis and are committed to continuing the development of BPR277 which fits well with our corporate strategy of developing drugs for diseases with few or no therapeutic options,” said Larry Hsu, LifeMax’s Co-founder and CEO. “This relationship is a testament to our drug development capability and expertise. We look forward to bringing this much needed therapy to people with Netherton Syndrome, and potentially other diseases with skin barrier impairment.”

This is Hsu’s second spring as an entrepreneur. He had previously founded and run Impax Pharmaceuticals, which eventually became part of the generics and specialty pharma company Amneal.

Post-retirement from Impax, Hsu also founded two venture funds including Hercules Bio-Venture Partners, where he is still general partner.

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