Unilife bags Novartis deal for injectable tech

Unilife CEO Alan Shortall

Unilife ($UNIS) is at it again. This time it's Novartis ($NVS) signing a deal with the injectable technology provider, adding to Unilife's impressive list of recent agreements with top pharmaceutical companies Sanofi ($SNY), MedImmune and Hikma.

Unilife and Novartis are keeping details of the deal under wraps for the most part, but FierceDrugDelivery spoke with Unilife CEO Alan Shortall about the 11-year-old company's strategy and its recent big-time agreements. Unilife specializes in injectable delivery devices for large molecules that are otherwise more difficult to administer. And this plays directly into the York, PA, company's long-term strategy, Shortall explained.

"With more and more patients self-injecting and more companies developing complex biologics, there is a convergence in the healthcare market that is changing the dynamics of the medical device market," Shortall said. "We've looked at the market and realized where the unmet needs are."

In just a few short months, Unilife has felt the payoff in a big way in the form of long-term supply agreements. With Hikma it's a $40 million deal for 15 years. With Sanofi it's 10 years, supplying at least 150 million units a year. And AstraZeneca's ($AZN) MedImmune will buy the company's wearable injectable tech for 20 years, Shortall said.

Novartis approached Unilife with a need for a delivery system to inject an unspecified early-stage pipeline drug using customized technology. Although he was mum on details, Shortall said that the target affects "a significant portion of the U.S. and the world" with current treatment exceeding $30 billion.

The technology itself is intended to replace surgery as a standard of care by injecting the compound directly into the affected organ, Shortall said.

"This is the delivery of a biologic directly into the organ in the body," Shortall said. "The other solution is to carry out surgery, and Novartis came to us to come up with an alternative, a new route of delivery."

So with some of the top pharmaceutical companies now pulling delivery technology for 10 years or more from Unilife's list of platforms, it's safe to say things are looking up.

"What you're seeing here is the first program emerging from the commercial pipeline," Shortall said, "indicative of commercial and financial opportunities with three of the top 10 pharma companies in the world. Pharma companies are challenged with the delivery of these compounds and we've come up with a solution."

- here's the release