Novartis chief executive Joe Jimenez has been reflecting on the profound changes facing healthcare and how his company is prepared to meet the challenges.
Speaking at the FT Global Pharmaceutical and Biotechnology conference in London earlier this week, Mr Jimenez (pictured) said we are in a "Renaissance of innovation”. He lauded the firm’s chimeric antigen receptor (CAR) therapy CTL019 for leukaemia and the work of its regenerative medicines unit which is looking at hearing and sight loss, as well as muscle wasting.
Aside from more traditional drug development, the Novartis boss then went on to say the group is determined to embrace technologies such as wearables and micro-chipped pills and create a “more data-driven science-based commercial model”. He referenced the group’s pact with Google which is measuring glucose levels in diabetics via a smart contact lens as an example of Novartis’ desire to tap into firms with expertise it simply does not have itself.
Beyond the pill services but with partners
This combination of biotechnology and mobile/monitoring technology, such as the deal with Google and a project with Proteus Digital Health for a 'chip-in-a-pill' will shape the way successful pharma companies do their business, Mr Jimenez argues, noting that firms also have to look at delivering ‘beyond-the-pill’ services. However, he noted that Novartis needs to partner in this latter area as it is outside its speciality and “we do not have to own these businesses”.
He believes that monitoring technology will play a vital role as society makes small steps towards outcomes-based pricing, though there is much work to be done in having systems that measure those outcomes.
Mr Jimenez says that in terms of pricing, “if you can stratify patients that will benefit, payors recognise this”. He also noted that he is also in a strong position of being able to walk into any health minister’s office and offer both innovative and generic drugs, courtesy of Novartis’ Sandoz unit.
In a week where mega-mergers dominate the headlines, with the Actavis-Allergan tie-up, Mr Jimenez says sealing the deals signed with GlaxoSmithKline and Eli Lilly (divesting animal health to the US firm) earlier this year is the firm’s priority. The GSK deal will see Novartis buy the UK group’s oncology products and sell its own vaccines unit to the latter; the companies are also creating a consumer health joint venture.
When asked about stories that 400 lawyers were working on the GSK deals, Mr Jimenez said there are more than that. He noted that the transaction “looks complex and is complex” but is still on track to close in the first quarter of next year.