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Novartis downsizing internal efforts on CAR T in solid tumors

How Novartis is shifting gears with its CAR T development plans

Novartis is pivoting away from internal development of CAR Ts in solid tumors, it said Thursday at its R&D day. The company is, however, pressing forward with the modality via partnerships, and plans to use internal talent to solve the problems of first-generation products.

“We have pivoted our strategy from internal innovation in solid tumors to external innovation and partnering,” said Jay Bradner, president of Novartis Institutes for BioMedical Research (NIBR), the R&D arm of Novartis AG (NYSE:NVS; SIX:NOVN), during the Q&A session.

“Internally we are really focused on blood cancers because we have some nuanced insights there from the development of Kymriah that we are able to leverage. So the strategy really has changed,” said Bradner.

Autologous CAR Ts for hematologic cancers remain a priority, CEO Vas Narasimhan told BioCentury.

It’s a notable move for one of the pioneering pharmas in the technology. Novartis added the CAR T cell platform in 2012 through a worldwide licensing deal with the University of Pennsylvania. The lead program from the deal is Kymriah tisagenlecleucel, which became the first CAR T product approved, in August 2017.

Pulling back from internal development of CAR Ts in solid tumors--considered by many as a must-have for CAR Ts to be more than a niche-use modality--will send

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