Novartis CEO outlines a winning drug development strategy

Novartis ($NVS) CEO Joe Jimenez took a minute during a recent interview with Fortune to explain the company's drug development strategy. Rather than go after a blockbuster indication, Novartis scientists are more focused on pathways.

By pursuing a particular disease pathway with a drug designed to treat a rare disease, Novartis improves its shot at gaining an approval from a tougher set of regulators on both sides of the Atlantic, says the CEO. Then once the pharma giant has that initial approval it expands on the treatment label by adding a more common disease that is affected by the same pathway.

"A good example of this is Ilaris, which is for a rare set of autoimmune diseases called cryopyrin-associated periodic syndrome," Jimenez told the magazine. "I think there are only 6,000 patients globally with this disease. But the mechanism, the pathway of this disease, is the same pathway that is prevalent in gout. And there are 3 million patients with acute gout. We have developed the drug in gout and we're awaiting FDA approval for this compound. This is a perfect example of how you would have multiple indications for the same drug and that's the way the drug would become--let's say, a blockbuster. Not that Ilaris will become a blockbuster but there will be multiple indications and multiple diseases through this fundamentally different approach."

- here's the Q&A from Fortune

Special Report: Novartis - The world's biggest R&D spenders