As we research and develop new drugs, we consider how to get them to more people as quickly as possible, regardless of where they live. We will systematically assess our R&D portfolio against the unmet needs of underserved populations and integrate these needs, as appropriate, into our drug discovery and development strategy. We aim to make our products available in countries with the highest burden of the disease to be treated.
In 2019, Novartis investment in R&D priority disease areas, as defined by the Access to Medicines Foundation, was approximately US$50 million. These priority disease areas have been identified as those where R&D is most urgently needed by patients in low- and middle-income countries (LICs and LMICs) due to ineffective, maladaptive or non-existent products for certain diseases, conditions and pathogens. These R&D priorities also include ‘Disease X’, a term used by WHO to refer to currently unknown pathogens that could cause a serious international epidemic, as occurred in the case of COVID-19. These disease areas include various neglected tropical diseases and other communicable diseases that predominantly affect populations in LICs and LMICs.
Our innovation process includes adapting existing products for different types of patients or diseases and for diverse environments.
Adaptive R&D is the modification of an existing medicine to improve therapeutic efficacy, safety, and access to medicine, and – most importantly – to generate a positive health outcome. Most often, this work is done with a specific focus on poor and vulnerable patient groups, such as children or the elderly. We systematically evaluate and execute adaptive R&D projects related to products in our existing portfolio. We also look for ways to expand the clinical use of existing medicines into new indications and populations.
We continue our longstanding commitment to reduce the burden of infectious and tropical diseases. The Novartis Institute for Tropical Diseases (NITD) is dedicated to finding new medicines for neglected diseases, and we continue to make strides against various infectious diseases including malaria, African sleeping sickness, leishmaniasis and Chagas disease.