No­var­tis CEO Vas Narasimhan is rais­ing the bar on sec­ond-gen can­cer drug stud­ies

No­var­tis $NVS has been no­tice­ably ab­sent from the cen­ter ring of PD-1/L1 re­search, qui­et­ly ad­vanc­ing its own check­point as an in-house as­set to match up with a grow­ing pipeline of can­cer ther­a­pies. But that doesn’t mean that new­ly pro­mot­ed CEO Vas Narasimhan hasn’t been think­ing a lot about the phar­ma gi­ant’s de­vel­op­ment strat­e­gy or what it has to do to po­si­tion it­self as the in­dus­try faces read­outs on a tsuna­mi of more than 1,000 com­bi­na­tion stud­ies now in the clin­ic.

In a con­ver­sa­tion with an­a­lysts for the Q1 re­view, Narasimhan made these com­ments on I/O:

I think there is of course very im­pres­sive da­ta and cer­tain­ly from the PD-1 from one of our com­peti­tors (that’s a ref­er­ence to Mer­ck’s Keytru­da/chemo com­bo), which I think is trans­for­ma­tive for pa­tients in lung can­cer. So, it’s a great thing in gen­er­al for so­ci­ety and for pa­tients. 

And then he moved on to sec­ond-gen­er­a­tion on­col­o­gy as­sets and I/O, where the CEO sees a ris­ing set of stan­dards on what it’s go­ing to take to demon­strate a suc­cess.

We eval­u­ate our sec­ond-gen­er­a­tion as­sets now at a high­er bar. We…in­creas­ing­ly want to en­sure that we have ap­pro­pri­ate con­trol arms so that we can see whether or not the com­bi­na­tion is hav­ing an im­pact on top of the PD-1 mono.

And I think one of the things we’re al­so putting a very heavy lens on: 

Do we have sin­gle-agent ac­tiv­i­ty? Be­cause I think sin­gle agent ac­tiv­i­ty will in­crease the like­li­hood that whether in com­bi­na­tion or not we might have a med­i­cine that’s go­ing to mat­ter. We eval­u­ate and have a high­er bar on what we progress. 

The nice thing for us in on­col­o­gy is we have a broad set of plat­forms. We are a leader in tar­get­ed ther­a­py. You see that in Mekin­ist and Tafin­lar as well as a leader in non­ma­lig­nant hema­tol­ogy as you see with Pro­mac­ta, Revolade, Ex­jade and Jakavi. So, we have that strong po­si­tion.

Sec­ond, we are a leader in CAR-T. We have Kym­ri­ah we have a broad port­fo­lio of CAR-Ts com­ing be­hind that. So, we have that as a plat­form. We have im­muno-on­col­o­gy, we have the 20 or so as­sets that are in the clin­ic eval­u­at­ing them, but we’ll take a stronger look at them. And then we brought in ra­dionu­clide ther­a­py (Lu­tathera), trans­for­ma­tive in neu­roen­docrine tu­mors. We’ll see how it un­folds in prostate can­cer, al­so look­ing at gas­tric can­cers. So, we are strate­gi­cal­ly try­ing to take a broad po­si­tion. 

We’re not over­ex­posed to I/O per se. And it’s not a bi­na­ry event for us whether I/O pans out for the com­pa­ny.


Im­age: Vas Narasimhan. NO­VAR­TIS

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Paul Hudson, Sanofi CEO (Getty Images)

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Pablo Legorreta, founder and CEO of Royalty Pharma AG, speaks at the annual Milken Institute Global Conference in Beverly Hills, California (Patrick T. Fallon/Bloomberg via Getty Images)

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The Advance Clinical leadership team: CEO Yvonne Lungershausen, Sandrien Louwaars - Director Business Development Operations, Gabriel Kremmidiotis - Chief Scientific Officer, Ben Edwards - Chief Strategy Officer

How Aus­tralia De­liv­ers Rapid Start-up and 43.5% Re­bate for Ear­ly Phase On­col­o­gy Tri­als

About Avance Clinical

Avance Clinical is an Australian owned Contract Research Organisation that has been providing high-quality clinical research services to the local and international drug development industry for 20 years. They specialise in working with biotech companies to execute Phase 1 and Phase 2 clinical trials to deliver high-quality outcomes fit for global regulatory standards.

As oncology sponsors look internationally to speed-up trials after unprecedented COVID-19 suspensions and delays, Australia, which has led the world in minimizing the pandemic’s impact, stands out as an attractive destination for early phase trials. This in combination with the streamlined regulatory system and the financial benefits including a very favourable exchange rate and the R & D cash rebate makes Australia the perfect location for accelerating biotech clinical programs.

Dan O'Day, Gilead CEO (Andrew Harnik, AP Images)

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Bryan Roberts, Venrock

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Roger Perlmutter, Merck R&D chief (YouTube)

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David Hoey (Vaxxas)

In for the long vac­cine game, Mer­ck buys in­to patch de­liv­ery tech with pan­dem­ic po­ten­tial

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Part of that will depend on next-generation delivery technology that reshapes the world’s imagination of a vaccine.

No­var­tis jumps in­to Covid-19 vac­cine hunt, as Big Phar­ma and big biotech com­mit to bil­lions of dos­es

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