Novartis cuts depression study, nearly erasing $210M Cadent acquisition from pipeline

Novartis rolled the dice in 2020 with a $210 upfront acquisition of long-time neuroscience partner Cadent Therapeutics. But the bet seems to have come up empty, as the Swiss pharma discontinues a mid-phase major depressive disorder program. 

The decision to shelve MIJ821 in patients with major depressive disorder (MDD) experiencing suicidal ideation with intent followed a “benefit-risk assessment of available data,” a spokesperson said in an emailed statement. “No new or changing safety signal was identified for study participants.”

The now-shuttered phase 2 study was evaluating the NR2B negative allosteric modulator alongside standard-of-care treatment to quickly reduce MDD symptoms. According to, the trial was set to wrap this past July. The spokesperson did not confirm if the study met its goal. 

When Novartis acquired Cadent less than three years ago, the pharma took ownership of the company's crown jewel CAD-9303, an investigational schizophrenia med being studied in a phase 1 trial at the time, and movement disorder program CAD-1883. 

However, neither one of the assets was ever publicly incorporated into Novartis' pipeline, the spokesperson confirmed to Fierce Biotech. Because plans were never announced for the two programs, the company didn't have an update to share on them, according to the Novartis spokesperson.

That leaves one indication for MIJ821 in treatment-resistant depression, something Novartis has been testing since 2015—years before the acquisition—when it exclusively licensed the asset from Cadent. The intravenous injection is currently being tested in a phase 2 trial, according to Novartis’ pipeline, though the company declined to confirm the ongoing status of the study. 

The Big Pharma will share an updated pipeline as part of its third-quarter earnings call on Oct. 24, the spokesperson said. 

MIJ821 is Novartis’ only therapy in development for MDD. The rest of the company’s neuroscience portfolio focuses on migraines, multiple sclerosis, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, Parkinson’s disease, Alzheimer’s disease, progressive supranuclear palsy and spinal muscular atrophy.