Novartis sees future beyond eye drops, bagging option to buy developer of drug delivery tech

Novartis’ business development team has been active in the ophthalmology space in recent years. (Novartis)

Novartis has identified drug delivery as an enabler of its push for the front-of-the-eye market. Having signaled its interest in the space with a $3.4 billion deal, Novartis has followed up with an investment that gives it an option to buy Kedalion Therapeutics for its topical ocular delivery device.

The device is designed to improve on the drops currently used to get drugs to the front of the eye. As Kedalion sees it, current delivery methods overdose patients, are frequently used improperly and are prone to contamination. The upshot? Drugs fail to provide the expected outcomes. That is a problem for companies in the front-of-the-eye market. 

Kedalion’s solution is a hand-held device that delivers a stream of drug formulation to the front of the eye for more accurate and precise dosing. With the device, AcuStream, enabling a sizable dose reduction in a phase 1 clinical trial without compromising efficacy, claimed benefits include fewer side effects and reduced burden on healthcare systems along with superior comfort and convenience. 

Novartis has evaluated the technology in recent months under a feasibility study agreement, leading it to invest in Kedalion’s series B financing round and secure an option to buy the company outright.

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“The AcuStream technology is a novel platform with broad applicability in ophthalmics and we envision that it could help us deliver transformative solutions to the patients who rely on our therapeutics to treat a range of eye conditions,” Jill Hopkins, M.D., global development unit head, ophthalmology at Novartis Pharmaceuticals, said in a statement.  

Novartis’ business development team has been active in the ophthalmology space in recent years, buying Xiidra from Takeda for $3.4 billion upfront in 2019 before going on to acquire gene therapy assets. Combined with internal R&D work, deals for topical eye disease assets have given Novartis drugs that could benefit from Kedalion’s device.