In a surprising turn of events, Novartis has decided to part ways with GT005, an eye disease gene therapy, despite its $800 million acquisition of Gyroscope Therapeutics in December 2021. The decision, prompted by a review from an Independent Data Monitoring Committee, was based on the belief that GT005’s performance in the Phase II HORIZON study did not justify its continuation.
This move has not only disappointed patients but also had financial implications, as Syncona, Gyroscope’s founder and former majority investor, will be writing off approximately $62 million in milestone payments as part of the acquisition agreement. Despite this setback, Syncona remains steadfast in its mission to impact the lives of patients grappling with devastating diseases.
Novartis seems to be on a path of strategic reevaluation, as this decision follows its recent discontinuation of the Xoma-partnered anti-TGFβ antibody NIS793, which had promising potential as a first-line therapy for pancreatic ductal carcinoma. Although clinical trials for NIS793 have halted, Novartis will continue to collect valuable data from these studies.
The pharmaceutical giant’s divestment trend started in July 2023 when it decided to part ways with an anti-TIGIT checkpoint inhibitor developed in collaboration with BeiGene for non-small cell lung cancer. Shortly thereafter, Novartis abandoned the investigational obesity drug MBL949 due to a “lack of efficacy” in a Phase II trial, even though it operated through a “unique mechanism of action” via the GFD-15 pathway, as touted by Novartis CEO Vas Narasimhan.
In June 2023, Novartis also made headlines by selling its dry eye disease drug, Xiidra, to Bauch + Lomb for a substantial $1.75 billion upfront, along with the potential for an additional $750 million in milestones. Xiidra, the first FDA-approved prescription drug for dry eye disease, had generated a staggering $487 million in earnings in 2022.
As Novartis navigates this shifting landscape, the pharmaceutical industry eagerly watches to see where the company’s strategic decisions will lead.