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UPDATE 1-Novartis weighs entry into mRNA technology, chairman tells paper

(Adds details about anti-infectives)

ZURICH, July 1 (Reuters) - Swiss drugmaker Novartis could get into the field of messenger ribonucleic acid (mRNA) technology, which has come to the fore in vaccine development during the coronavirus pandemic, Chairman Joerg Reinhardt said in a newspaper interview.

In the Aargauer Zeitung interview, Reinhardt also highlighted the company’s resurgent interest in anti-infective products that has also been driven by the pandemic.

“The mRNA technology has proven to be an attractive option in this situation and of course every research company is questioning whether they should invest more in this area,” he told the Swiss paper.

“Novartis is doing the same and we are having the discussion this week in the executive committee and then in August in the board of directors,” he added without being more specific.

Novartis had joined many other companies in 2018 when it abandoned anti-viral and anti-bacterial research at a facility in California, as it concluded the probability of success was relatively low and wanted to re-direct resources to other areas like gene therapy.

“We are now reassessing that,” Reinhardt said, as the pandemic has resurrected the company’s interest in anti-infectives.

In addition to antivirals against the coronavirus that it is developing in a partnership with Molecular Partners, Novartis’s U.S.-based research arm is working on an oral protease inhibitor -- a drug that targets enzymes that help the coronavirus copy itself inside human cells -- that it hopes could be effective in a long-term fight against COVID-19. (Reporting by Michael Shields and John Miller; Editing by Clarence Fernandez)

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