Novartis Partnership to Create Targeted Cardiovascular Drugs

Novartis will collaborate with Ionis Pharmaceuticals and Akcea Therapeutics to develop 2 novel drugs that reduce cardiovascular risks.

Novartis recently announced a novel partnership with Ionis Pharmaceuticals and its affiliate Akcea Therapeutics to develop next generation drugs that reduce the risk of cardiovascular events.

Under the agreement, the companies will license 2 new drugs that may reduce cardiovascular risks among patients with high levels of Lp(a) and ApoCIII, according to a press release from Novartis.

In high amounts, the lipoprotein Lp(a) aggregates in the arteries, severely limiting blood supply to critical parts of the body, such as the heart, brain, kidneys, and legs. High levels of this lipoprotein can lead to an increased risk of heart disease, atherosclerosis, thrombosis, and stroke.

ApoCIII is a protein created by the liver, and regulates triglyceride levels in the blood. Individuals with elevated levels of this protein have high triglycerides, and can also develop metabolic abnormalities, including insulin resistance or metabolic syndrome, according to Novartis. Alternatively, individuals who do not create this protein tend to have lower levels of triglycerides and a lower risk of cardiovascular disease.

AKCEA-APO9(a)-LRX and ACKEA-APOCIII-LRX are investigational antisense drugs developed by Ionis. Both drugs have demonstrated the ability to lower lipoproteins by 90%, and can reduce cardiovascular risks associated with high levels of Lp(a) and ApoCIII.

Additionally, Novartis reported that they entered a stock purchase agreement with Ionis. Novartis will have the option to license and market both drugs once they achieve pre-specified milestones prior to phase 3 clinical trials. They will then become responsible for development and marketing around the world.

A study published by The Lancet found that the antisense technology developed by Ionis is the most effective method of inhibition of Lp(a) and ApoCIII lipoproteins in the liver. The researchers found that the GAlNAc3-conjugated antisense oligonucleotide technology is approximately 30 times more effective compared with antisense oligonucleotide, Novartis reported.

The findings suggest that these new drugs can be administered at lower doses to achieve the same results, which could lead to decreased side effects and lower costs due to less medication needing to be administered.

Serious cardiovascular risks are incurred by patients who have high levels of Lp(a) and ApoCIII, including heart attack and stroke. By targeting and lowering these protein levels, patients are less likely to experience poor health and high costs that are associated with these events.

This latest investment in bio-marker drugs adds to Novartis’ specialty pipeline, and reaffirms their commitment to patients who are at a high risk of developing diseases such as dyslipidemia and atherosclerosis, which currently has no effective treatment options.

"Novartis is building a robust cardiovascular portfolio of targeted therapies to address unmet medical need of high-risk patients," said Vasant Narasimhan, global head, Drug Development and chief medical officer of Novartis. "Lp(a) and ApoCIII are potent, genetically validated cardiovascular risk reduction targets. The importance of predictive biomarkers in achieving successful cardiovascular outcomes will also be essential in the future payer environment. We look forward to working with Ionis and Akcea to develop both treatments."