Novartis exercises option for RNA-targeting drug candidate
With this option, Novartis will complete a Phase III trial of the drug candidate TQJ230 (AKCEA-APO(a)-LRx) for the treatment of an inherited form of cardiovascular disease in which individuals have elevated levels of lipoprotein (a) by targeting the body’s RNA to interfere with the production of lipoprotein (a). Overproduction of this protein can cause hardened arteries, thrombosis, and stroke.
Akcea Therapeutics, an affiliate of Ionis, co-developed the product after Ionis discovered it. Per a strategic collaboration agreement between Akcea and Novartis, Akcea will receive $150m (€132m) in licensing fees that will be split with Ionis. Additionally, Akcea will pay Ionis $75m in common stock as a means of settling an outstanding obligation.
“We’re excited about the novel, RNA-targeting approach that could be a game changer for people with elevated lipoprotein(a),” John Tsai, head of drug development at Novartis, said in a statement.
He further explained that should all proceed as planned with the clinical trial, TQJ230 will become a leading treatment option.
Novartis’ cardiovascular disease franchise saw patent expirations in 2012 on Diovan (valsartan), among some of its other blockbuster drugs within its cardiovascular portfolio, which then faced competition from lower cost rival drugs such has Avapro (irbesartan) and Cozaar (losartan).
With the company’s cardiovascular drug, Entresto (Sacubitril Valsartan), reaching its three-year mark in the market with $1bn (€880m) in sales in 2018, the company aims to augment its portfolio with TQJ230 to boost sales.