Novartis Raises Growth Target, Trims Pipeline Under ‘Pure-Play’ Strategy

Novartis_iStock, Michael Derrer Fuchs

Pictured: Novartis building in Basel, Switzerland/iStock, Michael Derrer Fuchs

During its 2023 R&D Day on Tuesday, Novartis touted the company’s progress in executing a “pure-play” strategy following last month’s spin-off of its generics and biosimilars business Sandoz, while raising projected growth through 2027.

The Swiss pharma will now focus its R&D efforts on four core therapeutic areas—cardiovascular, renal and metabolic (CRM) diseases, immunology, neuroscience and oncology—paying particular attention to high-value assets.

Novartis’ neuroscience business will target multiple sclerosis, neurodegeneration and neuromuscular diseases. The company is eyeing submissions by 2027 to expand the label of its gene therapy Zolgensma (onasemnogene abeparvovec) and secure an approval for remibrutinib in multiple sclerosis.

In CRM, Novartis will focus on iptacopan, atrasentan and zigakibart for which it has planned submissions by 2027. Meanwhile, the company’s immunology indications will include psoriasis, hidradenitis suppurativa and chronic spontaneous urticaria.

Oncology has been a strong pillar of Novartis’ business and under its new pure-play strategy the company has refined its focus to a handful of indications, including multiple myeloma, acute myeloid leukemia and non-Hodgkin lymphoma. A presentation on Tuesday showed that Novartis’ prioritization program most strongly affected its cancer franchise, with the number of projects dropping from 78 in the first quarter of 2021 to 41 in the most recent quarter.

In the last decade, Novartis has grown from a “relatively broadly diversified healthcare company” to a “pure-play innovative medicines company,” CEO Vas Narasimhan said during the investor event. This transformation, in turn, resulted in strong improvements in the company’s operational performance as well as an “attractive shift” in its financial outlook and profile, he noted.

Buoyed by this streamlined strategy, Novartis on Tuesday also raised its growth target to 5% per year until 2027, up from a previously announced compounded annual growth rate of 4%. The pharma also said that it is confident that it can maintain mid-single digit growth beyond 2027.

To reach its medium-term growth goal, Novartis is relying on a couple of brands which it says are key drivers of its growth. Among these is Kisqali (ribociclib), indicated for HR+ and HER2- metastatic breast cancer.

In the third quarter of 2023, Kisqali secured $562 million in sales, representing a 76% increase from the same period the prior year at constant currencies. The growth was driven by the continued strong demand for the drug in the metastatic setting, and its future revenues could further benefit from a potential expansion into the adjuvant setting.

Another key driver for Novartis is Pluvicto, which in March 2022 became the first drug in its class to be approved by the FDA. In its third-quarter 2023 report, Novartis posted $256 million in sales for Pluvicto for the first nine months of this year, up 217% from the same period last year.

Tristan Manalac is an independent science writer based in Metro Manila, Philippines. He can be reached at tristan@tristanmanalac.com or tristan.manalac@biospace.com.

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