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Novartis aims to pump up cardio business with Ionis deal

[ZURICH] Novartis on Monday exercised its option to license an RNA-targeting cardiovascular drug from Ionis Pharmaceuticals as the Swiss company aims to surround its heart-failure blockbuster Entresto with other medicines.

Novartis will now do a Phase 3 trial of TQJ230, also known as AKCEA-APO(a)-LRx, against an inherited form of cardiovascular disease where people have elevated levels of lipoprotein (a) that the company said cannot be lowered via diet and lifestyle changes.

Novartis's cardiovascular disease franchise suffered after patent expirations in 2012 on blockbusters such as Diovan opened the field to cheaper rivals. Now that its three-year-old Entresto heart drug topped $1 billion in sales in 2018, the company is hoping that TQJ230 will eventually help augment a heart-disease portfolio that is growing after years of stagnation.

"We're excited about the novel, RNA-targeting approach that could be a gamechanger for people with elevated lipoprotein(a)," said John Tsai, Novartis's drug development head. "If our Phase 3 trial succeeds, we expect that TQJ230 will become the leading treatment option."

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Ionis's experimental drug targets the body's RNA, which takes genetic information from DNA to help produce proteins, to interfere with the production of potentially harmful lipoprotein(a) that can lead to hardening of the arteries, thrombosis and stroke.

Novartis and Ionis, which helped develop Biogen's spinal muscular atrophy drug Spinraza, initially struck a deal last year to work together on the cardiovascular drugs. The companies did not release financial terms of the latest deal on Monday.

REUTERS