The ultimate goal of research at Novartis is to discover therapies with the potential to change the practice of medicine. This means changing the way physicians can help patients who do not respond to current therapy, who suffer unacceptable side effects from their medicines, or worse, have no treatment option or hope for their disease. Getting these medicines to the patients who need them as quickly as possible is also a key focus for Novartis.
Early decisions for future development
Proof-of-concept (PoC) is a core element of the Novartis R&D strategy, where compounds are quickly tested in a small, well-defined patient population. These PoC studies provide initial insights into acompound's safety and efficacy, and allow early decisions for further development. Recent PoC compounds have opened therapeutic areas in oncology, neuroscience and autoimmunity that were not previously available.
Benchmarking studies show that Novartis is the fastest company in the industry in reaching proof-of-concept by a substantial margin. If an initial proof-of-concept study is successful, development of the compound is rapidly expanded to other diseases where the same mechanism is believed to be involved. Unsuccessful proof-of-concept trials help to eliminate compounds with toxicity or other liabilities early in the development process.
A close connection between research and the clinic
Testing promising compounds in multiple PoC studies puts a premium on collaboration across disease areas, and between research and development functions. Every project is made up of cross-functional teams, including:
Pathway biology scientists
Disease area specialists
Clinicians and more
This way of working has become a part of the research culture at Novartis. Sharing ideas and compounds among disease areas allows Novartis scientists to understand the biology, as well as the best patient population for a particular molecule, as early as possible. Being responsive to emerging data sometimes means branching off in a new direction midstream but enables the company to bring these treatments to patients in the fastest time possible.
This approach is paying off. Novartis now has a growing number of PoC compounds with indications ranging from hypertension to multiple sclerosis, and is discovering therapies with the potential to fulfill the promise to change the practice of medicine.