Novartis AG is showing every sign of continuing to think big. Ridding itself of low-performing businesses while doubling down on cancer will help the pharma increase its operating income in the short term and plug some of the revenue loss when Gleevec imatinib goes off patent.

Continuing the pharma's growth trajectory since Joe Jimenez took over as CEO in January 2010 will hinge on whether its commitment to R&D can deliver.