Novartis has announced excellent results for 2016. Could its strong focus on biotech be the key to the big pharma’s success?

Novartis just released its 2016 financial report, boasting €45.2B ($48.5B) in net sales and its therapeutic antibody for psoriasis, Cosentyx (secukinumab), becoming a blockbuster. The Swiss pharma is suffering competition from generics, but it expects these numbers to remain roughly the same in 2017 thanks to its promising pipeline of increasingly many innovations from biotech.

The Swiss company is currently leading the development of CAR-T technology, which has been hailed as a game-changer in cancer. After recent deaths in clinical trials raised doubts over the technology’s safety, Novartis’ CAR-T therapy CTL019 renewed hope with a more favorable safety profile.

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The company also has ongoing partnerships with biotechs such as the German Morphosys. Together, the team is currently evaluating 12 therapeutic antibody candidates for applications ranging from obesity and type 2 diabetes to blood clotting disorders.

Just in the last quarter of 2016, Novartis further expanded its portfolio with a number of acquisitions. Among them were Selexys Pharmaceuticals, which develops antibodies against sickle cell disease, and Encore Vision, an eye drug biotech treating presbyopia. Novartis also licensed technology from Conatus to treat NASH, a hot topic in the biotech scene.

Joe Jimenez, CEO of Novartis, told Reuters that his company remains focused on takeovers in the $2-$5B range, although all transactions so far have been for lower amounts. In comparison, its recent acquisition of Selexys amounted ‘only’ to €620M ($665M). The deals projected by Jimenez might finally materialize this year, and the precedents seem to indicate that the target could likely be another biotech to boost Novartis’ strong biologicals pipeline.


Images from Lucarista/Shutterstock, Novartis

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