Molecular Partners gets Swiss gov't payment for COVID candidate

By John Miller

ZURICH (Reuters) - Molecular Partners is getting a payment in the "high single digit millions" of Swiss francs from the Swiss government to reserve doses of an early-stage drug candidate that the Zurich-area biotechnology company is developing for COVID-19.

Fresh off the failure of its eye drug abicipar in the United States, Molecular Partners is seeking to rebound with the experimental drug, called MP0420, against COVID-19.

The Swiss government is upping efforts against the new coronavirus, having last week struck an early access deal for a potential vaccine from U.S.-based Moderna that has entered large trials.

Molecular Partners' drug has yet to start clinical trials, with the company saying it hopes to initiate those later this year.

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"The initial supply agreement secures the right to purchase 200,000 doses, with the potential to purchase up to an additional 3 million doses," Molecular Partners said on Tuesday.

The Swiss company was hammered by bad news in June, when abicipar -- in a partnership with U.S. drugmaker AbbVie -- failed to win U.S. Food and Drug Administration approval for blindness causing macular degeneration. The company promptly did a capital increase to shore up its finances.

(Reporting by John Miller; Editing by Jacqueline Wong and Michael Shields)

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