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BASEL, Switzerland — Swiss pharmaceuticals maker (NYSE: NVS) is continuing its expansion efforts in North America.

The company said on Dec. 23 it was buying U.S. biopharmaceutical company Corthera Inc. for $120 million, giving it the right to develop a new drug against heart failure.

The acquisition of San Francisco-based Corthera is subject to regulatory approval and should be completed in the first quarter of next year, Novartis said in a statement.

Novartis recently dedicated a new vaccine production plant in Holly Springs, N.C. The company invested more than $1 billion in the 300,000 square foot plant.

The privately owned company has been developing relaxin, which is currently in the third trial phase as a potential treatment for patients with acute decompensated heart failure, Novartis said.

Novartis said it would be responsible for completing the development of relaxin and plans to submit requests to put it on the market in the United States and Europe in 2013.

Corthera’s current shareholders may receive additional payments of up to $500 million that depend on clinical milestones, regulatory approval for relaxin and how well the drug is doing on the market, Novartis said.