Novartis acquires Arctos Medical, expanding optogenetics portfolio to bring gene therapies to patients with severe vision loss

Sep 21, 2021
  • Acquisition underscores Novartis commitment to using optogenetics-based therapies to restore vision to patients with advanced blindness
  • Novartis gains one pre-clinical optogenetic AAV gene therapy program and Arctos’ proprietary technology introducing a distinct mechanism of action
  • Technology joins growing portfolio being developed at Novartis for potential treatment of vision loss

Basel, September 21, 2021 — Novartis today announced that it has acquired Arctos Medical, adding a pre-clinical optogenetics-based AAV gene therapy program and Arctos’ proprietary technology to its ophthalmology portfolio. The acquisition underscores the Novartis commitment to finding treatments for patients with vision loss and the potential of optogenetics as the basis of successful therapeutics.

“Optogenetics is emerging as a promising therapeutic approach that might restore sight to patients who are legally blind,” said Jay Bradner, President of the Novartis Institutes for BioMedical Research. “The Arctos technology builds on our conviction that optogenetic gene therapies may meaningfully help patients battling devastating eye diseases.”

Arctos developed its technology as a potential method for treating inherited retinal dystrophies (IRDs) and other diseases that involve photoreceptor loss, such as age-related macular degeneration (AMD). Existing gene therapy treatments aim to correct a specific gene, so only a small subset of patients can benefit. The Arctos technology is not limited to a specific gene, and thus can potentially address many forms of IRDs regardless of the underlying mutation. Arctos’ proprietary, light-sensitive optogene is delivered to specific retinal cells using gene therapy, thus turning the targeted cells into replacement photoreceptor-like cells. If successful, a therapeutic based on such a technology could be used to treat any disease that causes blindness due to photoreceptor death.

“We’ve watched this technology develop and mature into a therapeutic program that complements our existing portfolio and gives us new optogenetics technology to wield in our efforts to bring desperately needed therapeutic options to patients for these blinding diseases,” said Cynthia Grosskreutz, Global Head of Ophthalmology at the Novartis Institutes for BioMedical Research.

IRDs, which impact more than 2 million people globally and often result in complete blindness, can be caused by mutations in over 100 different genes.1 AMD is the leading cause of visual disability, affecting an estimated 170 million people globally.2 There are no curative therapies currently available for AMD.

The Arctos technology was based on discoveries by its scientific co-founders Drs. Sonja Kleinlogel and Michiel van Wyk of University of Bern, Switzerland. Arctos was originally incubated by +ND Capital and was later supported by Novartis Venture Fund through a Series A financing round led by +ND Capital.

Disclaimer

This media update contains forward-looking statements within the meaning of the United States Private Securities Litigation Reform Act of 1995. Forward-looking statements can generally be identified by words such as “potential,” “can,” “will,” “plan,” “may,” “could,” “would,” “expect,” “anticipate,” “look forward,” “believe,” “committed,” “commitment,” “conviction,” “investigational,” “pipeline,” “launch,” “growing,” “promising” “potential,” or similar terms, or by express or implied discussions regarding the acquisition of Arctos Medical, or regarding potential future revenues from its pre-clinical optogenetics-based AAV gene therapy program and proprietary technology. You should not place undue reliance on these statements. Such forward-looking statements are based on our current beliefs and expectations regarding future events, and are subject to significant known and unknown risks and uncertainties. Should one or more of these risks or uncertainties materialize, or should underlying assumptions prove incorrect, actual results may vary materially from those set forth in the forward-looking statements. There can be no guarantee that the expected benefits or synergies from this transaction will be achieved in the expected timeframe, or at all. Nor can there be any guarantee that the pre-clinical optogenetics-based AAV gene therapy program and proprietary technology will be commercially successful in the future. In particular, our expectations regarding the transaction described in this media update could be affected by, among other things, the uncertainties inherent in research and development, including clinical trial results and additional analysis of existing clinical data; regulatory actions or delays or government regulation generally; global trends toward health care cost containment, including government, payor and general public pricing and reimbursement pressures and requirements for increased pricing transparency; our ability to obtain or maintain proprietary intellectual property protection; the particular prescribing preferences of physicians and patients; general political, economic and business conditions, including the effects of and efforts to mitigate pandemic diseases such as COVID-19; safety, quality, data integrity or manufacturing issues; potential or actual data security and data privacy breaches, or disruptions of our information technology systems, and other risks and factors referred to in Novartis AG’s current Form 20-F on file with the US Securities and Exchange Commission. Novartis is providing the information in this media update as of this date and does not undertake any obligation to update any forward-looking statements contained in this media update as a result of new information, future events or otherwise.

About Novartis
Novartis is reimagining medicine to improve and extend people’s lives. As a leading global medicines company, we use innovative science and digital technologies to create transformative treatments in areas of great medical need. In our quest to find new medicines, we consistently rank among the world’s top companies investing in research and development. Novartis products reach nearly 800 million people globally and we are finding innovative ways to expand access to our latest treatments. About 109,000 people of more than 140 nationalities work at Novartis around the world. Find out more at https://www.novartis.com.

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References

  1. Francis, PJ. Genetics of inherited retinal disease. Journal of the Royal Society of Medicine. 2006. DOI: 10.1258/jrsm.99.4.189
  2. Xu, X., Wu, J., Yu, X. et al. Regional differences in the global burden of age-related macular degeneration. BMC Public Health 20, 410 (2020). DOI: 10.1186/s12889-020-8445-y

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