Novartis CEO Highlights Company’s Growth StrategyBy
At a recent investors’ meeting, Novartis CEO Vas Narasimhan highlighted the company’s growth strategy, which includes 10 potential blockbuster launches in the next three years, further investment in gene therapy and oncology products, an increased focus on digital technologies, and improving profitability for Sandoz, its generics arm.
“We have taken steps to focus the company and our capital in areas where we have the key ingredients to lead,” Novartis said in a May 16, 2018 company statement following the investors’ meeting. “We announced the sale of our stake in the Consumer Healthcare JV [joint venture] to GSK [GlaxoSmithKline] and invested more in gene therapy and oncology. We are positioned to deliver sales growth and margin expansion through 2022, driven by our key in-market products, our full late-stage pipeline, and ongoing productivity efforts.”
Novartis highlighted growth in its Innovative Medicines Pharmaceuticals business unit through Cosentyx (secukinumab), a psoriasis drug with 2017 sales of $2.1 billion, and Entresto (sacubitril/valsartan), a heart failure drug with 2017 sales of $507 million. It has also highlighted 10 potential blockbuster launches in the next three years, which includes Aimovig (erenumab), a drug to treat migraines, and drugs for treating asthma, sickle-cell disease drug, and others. Novartis says most of the drugs are potentially first-in-class.
Novartis expects its oncology business to have 15 major filings and 13 approvals in 2018 and filing opportunities in 2019. Key products include: Tafinlar + Mekinist (dabrafenib and trametinib), for treating unresectable or metastatic melanoma; Promacta (eltrombopag), a bone marrow stimulant; and Jakavi (ruxolitinib), a myelofibrosis drug. Three new potential blockbusters, Kisqali (ribociclib) for treating certain forms of breast cancer, Kymriah (tisagenlecleucel), a chimeric antigen receptor (CAR) T-cell immunotherapy for treating certain forms of leukemia, and Lutathera (lutetium Lu 177 dotatate) for treating certain digestive tract cancers, are expected to further drive growth in the mid-term, according to the company.
Novartis also expects to build on its position in gene therapy through its $8.9-billion acquisition of AveXis, a Bannockburn, Illinois-headquartered clinical-stage gene-therapy company, completed in May 2018. “…[W]e now have the potential to bring to children the first one-time gene-based treatment for the devastating disease, spinal muscular atrophy [SMA],” said Narasimhan said in a May 15, 2018 company statement. “The deal also supports our strategy to deliver transformative innovation in areas of high unmet medical need and advances our growing pipeline of gene therapies with the potential to transform the care of diseases, from SMA and cancer to blindness.”
Narasimhan has discussed US pricing pressure for Sandoz, Novartis’ generics arm. In the US, Sandoz plans to enhance its portfolio through targeted divestment of low-margin products. Outside the US, Novartis says growth continues for its generics. “Clearly in the US we’re going to need to evaluate what is the best way to maximize our position in the United States,” Narasimhan said on the May 16, 2018 investors call. “We’re looking at all options, and we’ll continue to look at those options, but we will not do anything that is going to destroy value, that’s clear….We don’t have the full answer yet on how to ensure Sandoz is a leader for the decade to come, but what I can say is we’re working on it…”
Novartis also says it is planning to use digital technologies in every function. Narasimhan has labeled use of data and digital to drive clinical trial productivity as an area of focus for the future. “One of the most important things we’re doing for the long term is to build new platform capabilities in therapeutics and advanced therapies,” Narasimhan said in the May 16, 2018 investors call. “…We need new technologies in order to be able to do this.” Accordingly, in April 2018, Novartis partnered with Pear Therapeutics, a Boston, Massachusetts-based prescription digital therapeutics company, to commercialize Pear Therapeutics’ two lead products, reSET and reSET-O, digital therapeutics for treating substance abuse. In March 2018, Novartis also made several appointments to the Executive Committee of Novartis, including the creation of a new position, chief digital officer.