Novartis: Re-imagining the Pharmaceutical Industry

Vasanth Narasimhan, CEO

The black swan events of the COVID-19 crisis have forced the pharmaceutical industry to underscore the need to optimize drug discovery and development processes. While the public-private initiative 'Operation Warp Speed' has won plaudits for the rapid acceleration of vaccine development and distribution processes, it has also laid the spotlight on bottlenecks for future clinical trial processes.

The onset of the pandemic has provided an opportunity for healthcare companies and regulators to work in tandem to streamline and fast-track their drug development practices and invest in innovative solutions to overcome the challenges of complex manufacturing processes. While this was even true before the pandemic and the ensuing economic downturn struck, leaders of pharma companies are up against a fresh set of challenges even as the crisis has spurred the adoption of technologies to support business continuity. Though the use of A.I, digital health tools, and fresh quality and data management technology will be exciting and powerful additions to how clinicians manage and protect health, at the same time, lingering challenges from the impact of COVID-19 are not going anywhere.

As the line between the tech and pharma sectors grows increasingly blurred, it has encouraged companies to view the future from a different perspective and adopt innovative methods to progress drug advancements and collaboration. This is where Novartis is striving to re-imagine and innovate the pharma industry to improve and extend people's lives. The American-Swiss multinational pharmaceutical corporation is based in Basel, Switzerland, and Cambridge, Massachusetts, U.S.A. The leading global medicines company uses innovative science and digital technologies to create transformative treatments to address and cure society's most challenging health ailments. In the quest to discover novel methods and new medicines, Novartis has consistently ranked among the world's top companies investing in research and development. The company's products reach nearly one billion people around the world, and it's always looking for new methods to make its latest medicines more accessible. "We discover and develop breakthrough treatments and find new ways to deliver them to as many people as possible," - Vasanth Narasimhan, CEO of Novartis.

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The Novartis Institutes for BioMedical Research (NIBR) is the innovation engine of Novartis.

We discover and develop breakthrough treatments and find new ways to deliver them to as many people as possible

At the heart of NIBR are its R&D teams, who are pushing the boundaries of science to discover and develop breakthrough treatments for patients by finding new drug targets and designing therapeutic interventions. The team of experts focuses on advancing new treatments that have the potential to help produce therapeutic breakthroughs for patients. From the inception of a therapeutic through early clinical development, each disease area team collaborates across scientific disciplines and organizations to support the mission of enhancing and extending peoples' lives. Driven and united by the passion for science and its impact on society, the NIBR is one of the world's most extensive and robust R&D engines.

Currently, Novartis has 160 plus projects in clinical development in more than 150 countries with over 20,000 scientists, clinicians, and business professionals worldwide focused on R&D of more than 50 disease areas.

Novartis is creating a new path for the pharma industry, organizing its early discovery efforts and putting together experts from different fields, including biology, chemistry, and computer science, to create new molecules and use them to probe biological systems. The company's teams are increasingly breaking down barriers between fields to make progress toward tackling challenging targets. Although researchers have used the standard tools of biology and chemistry to develop many successful treatments, these tools fail to include many drug targets such as key proteins and nucleic acids known to play a role in disease. Experts at Novartis specifically aim to fight diseases by attacking these targets, many of which have dodged the conventional molecules of traditional medicines. To address this challenge, the company uses emerging tools and combining multidisciplinary technology platforms to discover breakthrough treatments for patients in a bid to replace existing standard therapy to help them treat diseases that have been difficult to treat in the past. "My least favorite term in our field is 'undruggable' target, "- Jay Bradner, President, Novartis Institutes for BioMedical Research. This approach to drug discovery requires researchers to make connections across the company and beyond. In addition, Novartis aims to strengthen ties with external collaborators such as academic labs and biotechnology companies, generating disruptive tools and technologies to accelerate its work significantly.

Responding to Health Service Goals to Improve Patient Access

Novartis was established in 1996 through a merger of Ciba-Geigy and Sandoz. The company's roots trace back more than 250 years, with the converging destinies of three companies - Geigy, Ciba, and Sandoz.
These companies shared a common trait that lives on at Novartis; a passion for developing new products that contribute to human progress through advances in science and health. Benefitting from its continued focus on innovation, Novartis has one of the industry's most competitive pipelines, with more than 150 projects in clinical development. Many of these projects include new molecular entities as well as additional indications and different formulations for marketed products, which are for medicines that could significantly advance treatment standards for patients worldwide. The company continuously maintains a pipeline of innovation, exploring new ideas with hundreds of start-up companies via our HealthHub Challenge. Novartis has recently launched the Novartis Evidence Lab, the industry- 's firstever standardized, data-driven approach to rapidly pressure-test and validate digital health technologies directly with healthcare systems, professionals, and patients prior to scaling. The Evidence Lab coordinates and delivers the critical data needed to decide whether to scale a solution, refine it, or pivot to an alternative. It will help stakeholders in the healthcare system using evidence-based intervention to reduce risks and save time and money resources.

"We are building one of the leading pipelines of the industry that will enable us to continue to re-imagine the future of medicine"

Today, Novartis focuses its innovation prowess on addressing the unmet needs of patients worldwide by working at the forefront of the democratization of healthcare. With COVID-19 putting the spotlight on that data and digital solutions, the company is striving to transform how patients interact with physicians and healthcare systems. Guided by its purpose to unite the best of science and technology, Novartis is committed to developing programs to specifically address the needs of the U.K's National Health Service (N.H.S). Acting as a bridge between the resources and healthcare knowledge of the Novartis global organization and the external health tech ecosystem, it helps fast-track digital healthcare solutions to reach patients at scale. The company is pursuing this challenge on three fronts. Firstly, Novartis U.K is partnering with various hospital trusts, Academic Health and Science Networks (AHSNs), and healthcare services in the N.H.S to rapidly assess and select innovations that will create impact. Secondly, by working with N.H.S partners and hospital trusts to co-create problem statements and solutions, it aims to improve access and serve patients. Lastly, The company will act as a catalyst between start-ups, the broader U.K healthcare ecosystem and real-world challenges of the time. Moving forward, Novartis continues to collaborate with new partners to set up a wider crossindustry collaboration to advance health outcomes. "We are building one of the leading pipelines of the industry that will enable us to continue to re-imagine the future of medicine," - Vasanth Narasimhan, CEO of Novartis.