Novartis Purchase of AveXis Signals Confidence in Gene Therapies, Nationwide Children’s Research

(From the May 2018 issue of Research Now)

The pharmaceutical giant offers capacity to make therapies developed here available around the world

The $8.7 billion purchase of AveXis by pharmaceutical giant Novartis announced last month is a significant step toward reaching several Nationwide Children’s research and commercialization goals.

Novartis, as one of the world’s largest pharmaceutical companies, has the capacity to accelerate development of Nationwide Children’s therapies and make them accessible to children worldwide.

In the acquisition announcement, Novartis reported that AVXS-101, the spinal muscular atrophy therapy developed by Dr. Jerry Mendell in the Center for Gene Therapy, was a key factor in its decision. Children with SMA-1 treated with the gene therapy are living longer and reaching developmental milestones unseen in the natural course of the disease, a study of the drug trial shows.

“If you were looking for an indicator that this drug is doing well and has a strong chance to get to market, this sale is it,” says Matt McFarland, RPh, PhD, vice president of Commercialization and Industry Relations at Nationwide Children’s. “It’s impossible to hear this news and not celebrate it. The acquisition has so many good implications for the technology itself, startups that have licensed our other gene therapies, and our reputation.”

Nationwide Children’s stands to receive royalty revenue if and when AVXS-101 and other drugs currently licensed to AveXis are approved for sale by the FDA.

An independent broker, established to manage institutional conflicts of interest and insider trading considerations, liquidated Nationwide Children’s shares of AveXis by when AveXis had a successful initial public offering (IPO) in 2017.

The liquidation earned Nationwide Children’s nearly $36 million, which made 2017 the most profitable year for intellectual property licensing by any Ohio institution for decades.