New wonder drug proves a lasting legacy for Sussex scientists

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Scientists at a pharmaceutical company that pulled out of Horsham two years ago have left a lasting legacy - a new drug that could revolutionise the treatment of asthma.

The drug - a pill known as Fevipiprant - was invented and developed at Novartis at its base in Horsham.

Last week, the drug was hailed as a ‘gamechanger’ that could help reduce the number of deaths from asthma and improve treatment for patients suffering from it.

Professor Brian Cox was the head of chemistry at the pharmaceutical giant’s Horsham base for 12 years until the firm pulled out of the town two years ago. Professor Cox, who lives in the Horsham area and is now professor of chemistry at the University of Sussex, said: “Like many great innovations Fevipipirant was the work of many - a fantastic group of dedicated scientists from many disciplines and superb associated support groups such as human resources, finance etc - the success is a tribute to all their combined efforts.”

He added: “I happen to be one of the inventors on the patent that covers Fevipipirant which I am particularly proud of.”

He said the team’s research into asthma “looked at new approaches to help in the mild, moderate and severe forms of the disease.

“Currently available inhaled medicines in general control mild asthma very well, but the prospect of a tablet based alternative that would potentially treat all forms of the disease was a key driver for our research.”

Dr Samantha Walker, director of research and policy at Asthma UK said the findings should be ‘greeted with cautious optimism.’

But, she said, more research was needed “and we’re a long way off seeing a pill for asthma being made available over the pharmacy counter, but it’s an exciting development and one which, in the long term, could offer a real alternative to current treatments.”