What is Novartis without Sandoz? Vas Narasimhan is ‘patient’ as new company takes shape – Endpoints News
Vas Narasimhan is steadfast in his mission to reshape Novartis, shedding a few programs last quarter and making the final arrangements to spin off generics unit Sandoz. But make no mistake—he’s also “willing to be patient.”
While the CEO said on the company’s Q3 call Tuesday that he’s still looking for deals in the sub-$3 billion to $4 billion range and a “broad range of licensing opportunities,” he made it clear he won’t jump at just anything.
“We believe in our pipeline,” he said. “We believe with our new leadership in R&D and the addition of a strategy and growth officer, we can unlock the full potential of Novartis research and development and then have a steady flow of medicines going forward.”
The news comes as Novartis drops US tislelizumab programs in first-line nasopharyngeal cancer and first-line non-small cell lung cancer along with chemotherapy, as well as a liver transplant indication from the iscalimab program and presbyopia candidate UNR844.
It comes on top of a major restructuring that Narasimhan launched in April, cutting $1 billion in costs and bringing the company’s drug and oncology units under one roof. Cuts are expected, including around 400 at a Dublin manufacturing facility, Novartis announced recently. In total, the company is cutting around 8,000 out of 108,000 current roles, according to a spokesperson.
Looking ahead, Narasimhan detailed a “US-first” strategy, including plans to become a top-five player in the US by 2027 and a top-three player in China by 2024. The occasion is a list of drugs with blockbuster potential, Novartis said Tuesday, including the first-in-class small interfering RNA drug Leqvio, which was approved last December to lower LDL-C, or so-called “bad cholesterol.”
Narasimhan said the drug has “multi-billion-dollar” potential, adding that it is “on our mind to build a broader portfolio of medicines” behind Leqvio. The Swiss pharmaceutical giant recently tapped Bruce Arians, retired NFL head coach of the Arizona Cardinals and Tampa Bay Buccaneers, to appear in its “Coaching Cholesterol” campaign.
There is also Pluvicto, a radioligand approved back in March for PSMA-positive metastatic castration-resistant prostate cancer. The launch is “developing well,” raising $80 million last quarter, according to Novartis. However, the company noted in its slide deck attachment that it now plans to start a phase II study in the non-metastatic setting in 2023, as opposed to a phase III that was set to launch this year.
“In the non-metastatic setting as our previous study was designed, and based on feedback from the various investigators and the FDA, we believe the PSMA4 study covers the population for which we previously thought we needed to do an additional study,” said Narasimhan during the conversation. “So we redesigned our program to generate additional data in another, I don’t have the details at hand, but another population within the non-metastatic setting.”
Entresto, Kesimpta, and Kisqali are the other key brands, earning approximately $1.1 billion, $289 million, and $327 million, respectively, last quarter. As for Gilenya — one of the company’s former best-sellers in innovative drugs before generics hit the scene — Novartis said it plans to petition the Supreme Court to uphold a key patent that expires in 2027. Otherwise, generics from Gilenya could cost Novartis more than a quarter of a billion dollars this year, the company said earlier.
Novartis’ operating income fell 23% last quarter, due to “higher impairments and higher restructuring costs,” according to a press release.
Sandoz is still set to spin out next year, with current CEO Richard Saynor still at the helm. Saynor has been in charge of Sandoz since 2019 and will step down from Novartis’ executive committee after taking charge of the spinout.