Novartis cuts Gyroscope eye disease drug on weak data amid larger ophthalmology restructuring

As Novartis looks to sell off its eye disease unit, a geographic atrophy (GA) program is being discontinued on weak data, shutting down a pipeline of milestone payments related to the 2021 acquisition of Gyroscope Therapeutics.

Development of GT005 will be shut down in GA secondary to dry age-related macular degeneration after the independent data monitoring committee conducted an initial benefit-risk assessment on the phase 2 HORIZON program. The committee determined that the overall data did not support continuation of the program.

That means a lucrative pipeline of milestone payments will be shut down for Syncona, an investment firm that previously owned Gyroscope Holdings before Novartis’ 2021 buyout.

Novartis inked the acquisition of gene therapy startup Gyroscope Therapeutics for up to $1.5 billion to take control of GT005. The deal included $800 million upfront and $700 million in milestone payments.

The milestone tap has been turned off with the discontinuation of GT005, according to Syncona. The firm received $442 million when Gyroscope was acquired and had milestone payments valued at 54.5 million pounds sterling ($68.2 million) as of June 30 still outstanding. Syncona will now write off the potential milestone. The decision to discontinue GT005 is “naturally disappointing,” the firm’s CEO Chris Hollowood said, “but we respect Novartis’ decision.”

While data were the impetus for this decision, Novartis is looking to offload its larger eye disease ambitions amid a major restructuring that will claim 8,000 staffers. The Swiss pharma is also spinning off its generics unit Sandoz and could sell the ophthalmology and respiratory disease businesses.

Besides GT005, Novartis is also working on meds in glaucoma and ocular surface disease. The company divested its “front of eye” ophthalmology assets to Bausch + Lomb in June for $2.5 billion, including approved dry eye disease therapy Xiidra.