Novartis Expands Presence in Gene Therapy With Acquisition

– By Barry Cohen

Novartis AG (NYSE:NVS) is expanding its gene therapy footprint by acquiring a venture capital-backed company focusing on treating vision loss that can lead to blindness.

The Swiss pharmaceutical giant will pay shareholders of Vedere Bio $150 million upfront, which could be boosted by $130 million more if the Cambridge, Massachusetts-based company’s programs achieve several development milestones.

Novartis has made huge strides aimed at beefing up its gene therapy program. In 2018, the company bought AveXis for $8.7 billion, inheriting its spinal muscular atrophy therapy Zolgensma, and this year established partnerships with Dyno Therapeutics and Sangamo Therapeutics Inc. (NASDAQ:SGMO).

Vedere is trying to take naturally occurring, light-sensing proteins and use a special gene therapy method to inject them into a certain part of the eye. Once there, they will be sent to retinal cells that are still healthy to help improve the vision of patients, according to an article in BioPharma Dive.

Novartis thinks this approach has much broader uses. The company said the proteins, in conjunction with Vedere’s delivery tools, could “vastly expand” the number of treatable patients with vision loss from photoreceptor death.

Investors should keep in mind that the Vedere treatments are still in the pre-clinical stage so a great deal of development still needs to be done. Working with the acquisition’s scientists, Novartis is preparing to promptly begin human testing.

Novartis Expands Presence in Gene Therapy With Acquisition
Novartis Expands Presence in Gene Therapy With Acquisition

There could be an even bigger population the Vedere platform could address, beyond inherited eye disorders. That would be a new way to treat geographic atrophy, one of the more advanced forms of an age-related vision loss called dry age-related macular degeneration. The American Academy of Ophthalmology notes an estimated 15 million people in North America have AMD, the vast majority with the dry form.

Following the close of the deal, Vedere Bio II will operate as a wholly independent entity from Novartis and Vedere Bio.

Novartis decided to get out of one area of the eye-care business when it spun off Alcon Inc. (NYSE:ALC) last year. The company said it wanted to concentrate on treating diseases of the eye, not eye-care products.

Novartis’ eye drugs include Xidra, treating dry eye disease, and Beovu, which was recently approved for the wet form of AMD. Its third eye drug and the biggest producer is Lucentis, which had sales of $515 million in the third quarter. Xidra and Beovu combined to bring in revenue of about $151 million. Novartis’ biggest competitor is the Regeneron Pharmaceuticals Inc. (NASDAQ:REGN) drug Eylea, a multibillion-dollar annual seller.

The Novartis faithful are hoping for better days ahead. At about $90, the company’s shares are pretty much where they were five years ago. On the plus side, its dividend yields nearly 4%.

Despite the stock being stuck in neutral, Wall Street seems to think Novartis is a good investment, with three recent buy ratings and just one hold. Analysts give it an average target price of more than $106, according to

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VitalHub Continues to Increase NHS UK Presence with Additional Regional Licensing Deal of Synopsis Products

TORONTO, Oct. 28, 2020 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) — VitalHub Corp. (the “Company” or “VitalHub”) (TSXV: VHI) is pleased to announce the licensing of newly-acquired subsidiary Intouch With Health’s (“Intouch”) digital, at-home pre-op solutions, Synopsis iQ, to Northumbria Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust (“Northumbria” or the “Trust”).

Northumbria Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust has licensed VitalHub subsidiary Intouch’s digital pre-operative solution platform, Synopsis iQ, as the Trust launches a new digital pre-operative assessment (POA) pathway that will improve demand and capacity planning and resource utilization, helping to fill last-minute surgery slots and reducing the number of face-to-face appointments the department processes.

The Synopsis solution will enable Northumbria to meet a number of Trust targets, such as reducing the face-to-face appointments, which has become a much-needed requirement in the pandemic climate. Synopsis will provide the Trust with tools to afford patients with an improved experience leading up to surgery, affecting both the delivery and quality of care provided.

The project is part of the Trust’s drive to create a more efficient operating room booking pathway by creating a pool of ‘pre-op ready’ patients’ consultants can use to create operating room lists and fill last-minute surgery slots. As part of the project, patients waiting for surgery will also be able to complete their POA health questionnaire at home via a secure link on the Trust’s website. Results are then sent to the Trust’s pre-operative assessment department where staff can triage and swim-lane patients into the correct fitness and readiness categories.

The Trust identified a considerable burden on pre-op assessment departments, facing high volumes of last-minute requests for patient appointments, resulting in operating time delays and resource inefficiencies. Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Trust established a target to reduce the number of face-to-face appointments patients had to attend, creating a need for a pre-op pathway solution, and has selected Synopsis iQ and Synopsis Home as their solutions of choice to enable the progression of this target.

Digitizing the pre-operative assessment process will also allow consultants and anaesthetists to access full patient notes from any of the Trust’s four hospital sites. The project will be rolled out across North Tyneside General Hospital, Northumbria Specialist Emergency Care Hospital, Hexham General Hospital and Wansbeck General Hospital, giving staff across all four hospitals secure access to patient records and a real-time view of each patient’s status through the pre-operative pathway.

Northumbria Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust is a regional healthcare network that provides a range of health and care services to support more than 500,000 people living in Northumberland and North Tyneside. The Trust delivers care from 11 sites, including their emergency care hospital, general and community hospitals, outpatient and diagnostic centers, an elderly care unit and an integrated health and social care facility. The Trust admitted over 116,000 patients and handled over 368,000 outpatient appointments in the 2017/18 period.

“We are seeing an aggressive uptick in awareness and interest in the Synopsis suite of products,” said Dan Matlow, CEO of VitalHub Corp. “With this contract, we add another

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