Novartis is working on pioneering advanced new cancer therapies, rather than looking for incremental improvements in existing drugs. Denise Roland explains Novartis’ strategy at The Wall Street Journal, writing:
Novartis AG’s NVS +0.43% recent acquisition streak is pivoting the company toward new treatments that bear little resemblance to traditional drugs.
The Swiss company has spent nearly $15 billion in the past year to build its presence in cutting-edge areas of medical research, including gene therapy, or treatments that introduce new DNA into the body, and radiopharmaceuticals, which are drugs that carry radioactive particles to tumors for close-range radiotherapy.
The deals build on Novartis’s early move into a new form of cancer therapy known as CAR-T, and underscore new Chief Executive Vas Narasimhan’s ambition to get ahead on innovative therapies that he believes will drive significant future growth.
“We thought if we could gain a leadership position it’d be harder for competition to take us on,” Dr. Narasimhan, who led drug development at Novartis before becoming CEO, said in an interview. The 42-year-old Harvard-trained doctor said at a recent investor event that he hopes such therapies will generate a fifth of Novartis’s revenue within five years. Currently, they are a tiny fraction of its $49 billion in yearly sales.
The new treatments pose challenges. The jury is still out on how gene therapies, which potentially offer one-time cures for previously untreatable diseases, should be priced. Radiopharmaceuticals are logistically challenging to deliver because of the short half-life of the radioactive component.
Dr. Narasimhan acknowledged at the event that risks were higher than with conventional drugs but added that “there’s a risk in not pushing into new technologies and new areas of science to find breakthrough medicines.”
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