Novartis Explores Sale of Certain Ophthalmology Assets

Novartis_Taljat David_Compressed

Pictured: Novartis Headquarters Building/Courtesy of Getty Images

To hone in on its growth areas, Novartis is looking to trim its ophthalmology portfolio and sell off some of its assets, according to a Bloomberg report published Tuesday.

Citing anonymous sources familiar with the matter, Bloomberg noted that Novartis has already started contacting likely buyers and expects to attract private equity and strategic bidders.

In an email to BioSpace, a company spokesperson declined to comment.

Among assets for sale are front-of-eye treatments, including the eye drop medicine Xiidra (lifitegrast ophthalmic solution), a lymphocyte function-associated antigen-1 (LFA-1) antagonist indicated for dry eye disease.

Novartis won rights to Xiidra in May 2019 when it bought the drug from Takeda for $3.4 billion in upfront cash payments and $1.9 billion in milestones.

In 2022, Xiidra brought in $487 million in sales for Novartis.

Novartis’ eye business also includes Beovu (brolucizumab-dbll), approved for wet age-related macular degeneration (AMD) and diabetic macular edema. It garnered $203 million in sales in 2022.

The Swiss pharma also owns Luxturna (voretigene neparvovec-rzyl), the first-ever gene therapy approved for biallelic RPE65 mutation-associated retinal dystrophy. Luxturna was discovered and initially developed by Spark Therapeutics, from which Novartis licensed the medicine in 2018 for $170 million.

The specific ophthalmology assets up for sale remain unknown.

The spokesperson said Novartis “continually assesses opportunities within our portfolio” and ensures that the company is focused on its highest value to drive growth.

However, according to the Bloomberg report, Novartis is keen to hold onto Lucentis (ranibizumab), its medicine for wet AMD that it licensed from Roche/Genentech. Total sales for Lucentis exceeded $1.8 billion in 2022.

Novartis is seeking help from an adviser to gauge industry interest in its eye assets.

Novartis’ Reorganization

News of Novartis’ plans to streamline its business broke in November 2022, when Bloomberg reported the company was mulling the sale of its eye and respiratory units and focusing on its core therapeutic areas.

This move comes amid a sweeping global restructuring program, which Novartis launched in April 2022, that will simplify the company’s structure and better position it for future strategic maneuvers.

Under this plan, Novartis’ oncological and pharmaceutical divisions merged into what is now known as its Innovative Medicines business unit. The reorganization will also put 8,000 jobs on the line, accounting for 7% of the company’s global workforce, to save at least $1 billion by 2024.

When Novartis announced its restructuring initiative, a company spokesperson told BioSpace that the new organizational structure “is central to our growth strategy” and will make the Swiss pharma “more agile and competitive” while also boosting its R&D pipeline.

In July 2022, Novartis also announced it was considering spinning off Sandoz as part of its overall strategic realignment program. Initial plans for the Sandoz spinoff were first reported in October 2021.

Back to news