Novartis business development stays on course during COVID-19

Novartis, NIBR continuing full steam ahead to find partnering opportunities, COVID notwithstanding

Even if COVID-19 does disrupt operations or create a buyer’s market, Novartis will not veer from its business development strategy. The pharma was already expanding external innovation before the crisis, and has no intention of changing its pace or priorities because of the outbreak.

Expansion of external innovation has been a priority for the last four years at Novartis AG (NYSE:NVS; SIX:NOVN), relying heavily on licensing and partnering, with scattered bolt-on acquisitions, aimed at building flexibility into the pipeline.

The overhaul stemmed from a series of management changes that kicked off when Jay Bradner stepped in as president of the pharma’s R&D division -- Novartis Institutes of BioMedical Research (NIBR) -- in 2016.

Bradner’s directive from the start was to open up NIBR to external innovation, after years where the unit served as an internal research and discovery engine. At the time, he told BioCentury, “I do believe that NIBR can evolve to be a much more engaged part of, and engaged member of the scientific community, with more doors more open to innovative ideas” (see “Open House at NIBR”).

In 2018, Vasant Narasimhan took the post of CEO and made fostering a BD culture a top priority. Under Narasimhan, Novartis has completed over $70 billion in transactions to

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