Source: Reuters

It seems that Vas Narasimhan, the new CEO over at Novartis is not shy of taking risks. His latest move sees the $8.7 billion acquisition of gene therapy biotech, AveXis, proving that he is world’s away from his predecessor, Joe Jimenez. 

According to Pharma File, AveXis’s lead therapy, AVXS-101, a treatment for spinal muscular atrophy (SMA), posted very strong results in Phase 1 clinical trials. The results, which were released back in November 2017, reported that patients receiving a one-time dose of AVXS-1010 were alive and event-free at 20 months of age in the 15 patients who received the dose. 

Such a move from Narasimhan could suggest that the company are eyeing up the gene therapy area as it’s next big development within the pharmaceutical industry. 

SMA is the leading genetic cause of infant mortality and those who have SMA type 1 have a life expectancy of less than 18 months. The fact that Novartis was prepared to pay an 88% premium on the share price AVXS indicates that the pharma giant expects the lead candidate to go onto become a blockbuster. 

However, it is worth mentioning that GSK’s buyout of Novartis from their joint healthcare venture for $13 billion has afforded Narasimhan some room to make this type of deal, even with some cash left over to look at adding further prospects to the portfolio.

“The proposed acquisition of AveXis offers an extraordinary opportunity to transform the care of SMA. We believe AVS-101 could create a lifetime of possibilities for the children and families impacted by this devastating condition,” explained Narasimhan. “The acquisition would also accelerate our strategy to pursue high-efficacy, first-in-class therapies and broaden our leadership in neuroscience. We would gain with the team at AveXis another gene therapy platform, in addition to our CAR-T platform for cancer, to advance a growing pipeline of gene therapies across therapeutic areas. We look forward on the closing of the deal to a smooth transition for AveXis employees and welcoming them to Novartis.”

The company also noted that a BLA filing is expected in the second half of 2018 and predicts a launch of the product in the US during 2019.