Novartis Culls 10% of Pipeline, Doubles Down on Five Core Therapeutic Areas
Pictured: Novartis headquarters/Courtesy Adobe Stock, Yingko
To sharpen its focus on its core therapeutic areas, Novartis is discontinuing or licensing out 10% of its clinical development programs, the company announced Tuesday during its first-quarter financial report call with investors.
The cull will leave Novartis with 136 clinical-stage assets across its five focus areas – solid tumors, hematology, immunology, neuroscience and cardiovascular diseases – and a sixth area called TAX, which the company uses to refer to other therapeutic fields it is interested in exploring. The company had 152 candidates at the end of 2022.
In the investor call, Vas Narasimhan, CEO of Novartis, said the company decided to pare down its pipeline after a review of its biotech peers showed that it had more projects in general than others, which led to a lower per-project investment.
Novartis picked out which assets to drop based on how well they matched the company’s R&D and therapeutic strategy, their commercial potential and overall value, and the competitive landscape.
The pipeline cuts come 10 months after Novartis launched a sweeping global restructuring initiative to save at least $1 billion by 2024 in which the company estimated about 8,000 Novartis staffers would lose their jobs. The company is also gearing up to spin off its generics unit Sandoz as a separate entity.
Novartis’s oncology business suffered the heaviest blow, losing 10 developmental molecules, most of which were in early-stage development. Much of the cuts were also focused on Phase I/II candidates across the hematology, immunology and cardiovascular disease areas.
“We have identified five tumor types we're particularly interested in, and we're trying to focus our energy there,” Narasimhan said during the call, explaining the deep cuts to its cancer pipeline.
“We also want to pivot much harder to radioligand therapy-based therapies where we see the strong performance of Pluvicto and Lutathera,” Narasimhan said.
Pluvicto (lutetium Lu 177 vipivotide tetraxetan), in particular, is one of Novartis’s highest-growth assets, earning $211 million in the first quarter of 2023. The FDA approved the targeted radiotherapy in March 2022 for metastatic prostate-specific membrane antigen-positive metastatic castration-resistant prostate cancer.
Along with Pluvicto, Novartis’s highest-selling drugs in the first quarter of 2023 included the heart failure drug Entresto (sacubitril/valsartan), which brought in nearly $1.4 billion in sales and the breast cancer therapy Kisqali (ribociclib), which earned $415 million in revenue.
Tristan Manalac is an independent science writer based in metro Manila, Philippines. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com