Novartis aims for first in smart inhaler race via Qualcomm deal

Qualcomm ($QCOM) and Novartis ($NVS) are working together to develop a next-gen connected version of the pharma's Breezhaler device that's used across its entire chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) drug portfolio.

This is an expansion upon a previously existing partnership that dates back to early last year that's focused on integrating tech into the clinical trial process. Qualcomm Ventures and Novartis subsequently also disclosed the formation of a joint investment company with $100 million that's focused on creating mobile tech to advance digital medicine.

With the latest news, Novartis anticipates a 2019 launch for the next-gen Breezhaler, pending manufacturing, testing and regulatory approvals. It would be used with Novartis COPD treatments including Onbrez, Seebri and Ultibro.

Novartis said it hopes to be the "first company with a completely integrated, connected delivery device that will provide a simple experience for patients, eliminate the need to assemble the device themselves and enable them to more easily manage their chronic disease." That's despite a smart inhaler/app combo from partners GlaxoSmithKline ($GSK) and Propeller Health that already launched after it won a nod from FDA last year.

Smart inhaler deals have been coming fast and furiously over the last few years. Boehringer Ingelheim is also partnered on them with Propeller Health; Teva ($TEVA) acquired Gecko Health Innovations; and AstraZeneca is working the newly public Adherium, all in the name of integrating connected inhalers and apps to gain an edge with existing respiratory products.

"This is an exciting time for healthcare as we see the proliferation of the Internet of Medical Things," said SVP and GM of Qualcomm Life Rick Valencia said in a statement. "Through our expanded collaboration with Novartis, we are able to deliver a frictionless digital health experience to their COPD patients."

The next-gen Breezhaler is expected to be small, low-power, and disposable with near real-time data. It's intended to connect to Qualcomm Life's 2net Platform to report detected data on inhaler usage and the duration of patient inhalation, which is an indicator of inhalation quality.

- here is the statement