Research and development remains a cornerstone of the Novartis strategy and a foundation of our future. Over the years, our teams have made progress toward fighting devastating diseases ranging from breast cancer to multiple sclerosis to malaria.
We believe innovation that produces breakthrough medicines, devices and solutions will be critical in the coming years as demographic trends increase pressure on healthcare systems to produce the best results at the lowest overall cost. Innovation more broadly is also a key enabler of access to healthcare. Altogether, this supports our efforts to grow in emerging markets and can help us respond to unmet medical needs of patients, whether in the developed or developing world.
We seek to develop medicines and products that can generate positive real-world outcomes for patients and healthcare providers. The benefits can range from improving the cost-effectiveness of high-quality care to prolonging lives. We are developing services and technologies to increase the benefits of our core products, often in collaboration with healthcare providers and technology companies.
Bacteria, viruses and other micro-organisms continue to significantly impact human health, despite major medical advances. Infectious diseases remain the leading cause of death in children and adolescents, and one of the leading causes of death in adults. We are working across the spectrum of these diseases, including tropical diseases such as malaria that alone kills almost 430 000 people each year. 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.
Drug-resistant bacteria are an emerging threat to public health. In 2016, we joined with leading industry peers to present a roadmap for combatting antimicrobial resistance (AMR). We continue to conduct research into new antibiotic treatments for the most devastating infectious diseases. In 2016, we began a first-in-human clinical trial to test an injectable compound designed to kill drug-resistant gram-negative bacteria. Our generic medicines division, Sandoz, is also the world’s largest generic antimicrobial producer.
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 mature products in our existing portfolio. As an example, we are currently working on developing a once-daily form for lumefantrine, which is also a key component of Coartem, our artemisinin-based combination therapy against malaria.
We also look for ways to expand the clinical use of existing medicines into new indications and populations. This includes ongoing work on new indications, such as multidrug-resistant tuberculosis for Lamprene (clofazimine), an agent to treat leprosy.
Collaborating to eliminate rheumatic heart disease (RHD) in Zambia
RHD has been eliminated in most developed nations, but sub-Saharan Africa studies show that approximately 2-3% of school-age children have signs of this often fatal disease.1 Zambian healthcare providers from the Lusaka University Teaching Hospital, Novartis Institutes for BioMedical Research, physicians from Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH) and the Pan-African Society of Cardiology (PASCAR) are collaborating to promote RHD prevention by treating children with streptococcal infections and silent RHD. The collaboration has screened over 3,000 Zambian children in 50 Lusaka schools using new technology: hand-held portable echocardiography machines. Children diagnosed with RHD are offered treatment with monthly penicillin injections to prevent recurrent strep throat and associated cardiac damage, according to national guidelines in Zambia. In addition, multiple trainings of healthcare staff and school teachers have taken place, while an open-source mobile health platform, called the eRegistry, has been developed and launched to help local doctors track patient care. At the invitation of the health authorities in Zambia, the collaboration plans to extend the rollout of the RHD training and treatment effort from the initial Lusaka scheme to provinces across Zambia, with the ultimate goal of eliminating RHD in the country.
Partnering with the first drug discovery center on the African continent
Supported by The Novartis Research Foundation, Novartis has entered a research partnership with H3-D, the first fully integrated drug discovery and development center on the African continent, affiliated with the University of Cape Town in South Africa. The goal of the center is to educate the next generation of African scientists and to work on diseases that affect people on the African continent. The partnership between Novartis and H3-D involves research collaborations in TB and malaria, support with the set-up of a clinical study site at H3-D, scientific exchange programs and infrastructure support.
Novartis is a founding member of WIPO Re:Search, established to accelerate discovery and development of medicines, vaccines and diagnostics for neglected tropical diseases.