Multibillion-dollar R&D strategy is paying off for Novartis

Novartis CEO Joe Jimenez managed to impress the Wall Street crowd today with some solid numbers for the second quarter. Boasting of the company's ($NVS) pipeline successes, Jimenez says that growing revenue from new products proved an effective antidote to some painful generic competition. And he pointed to second-quarter progress on a slate of drug studies which he believes will help spark a rising trajectory for revenue.

Altogether there were 8 regulatory milestones passed in three months,including: Positive opinions from the CHMP for Afinitor in breast cancer and Jakavi (INC424, ruxolitinib for myelofibrosis), an EMA approval for Signifor, a Cushing's disease treatment, and an EU recommendation for Seebri Breezhaler (NVA237, glycopyrronium bromide). 

Jimenez's team wins kudos for its ability to take a drug, win an approval and then steadily build the label. That strategy was on display with Ilaris, or ACZ885, an IL-1 protein blocker on the market for a rare inflammatory condition, which turned in positive Phase III data for systemic juvenile idiopathic arthritis and promising mid-stage data for tumor necrosis factor (TNF) receptor-associated periodic syndrome--or TRAPS. On the cancer side of the pipeline equation, the company highlighted the Phase III BOLERO-2 trial, "which confirmed that Afinitor plus exemestane more than doubled the time postmenopausal women with hormone receptor-positive (HR+) advanced breast cancer lived without tumor growth."

Other top prospects at Novartis include the late-stage QVA149 for COPD. 

Novartis--a busy oncology player--pointed to early data on several pipeline compounds, including BEZ235 (breast cancer), BKM120 (breast cancer), LBH589 (multiple myeloma), LDE225 (brain cancer), LDK378 (non-small cell lung cancer) and MEK162 (NRAS-mutated melanoma). 

The pharma giant's success in R&D has prevented the kind of deep research cuts that hit Pfizer ($PFE) and AstraZeneca ($AZN). Novartis spent $7.2 billion on pharma R&D last year, with added research costs at Alcon, Sandoz and the vaccines and consumer health units bringing the total to a record $9.5 billion.  

"Investment in R&D is paying off," Jimenez told reporters, according to The Wall Street Journal. "A high level of productivity in R&D is our future, that's key for Novartis's growth track record."

At a time failure in the clinic can lead to swift job cuts, the ongoing success of Novartis's huge research operations provide the most effective kind of job security there is these days.  

- here's the press release
- read The Wall Street Journal report
- get the Reuters story

Special Report: Novartis - The Biggest R&D Spenders In Biopharma