Eye on Five – January Edition

Alcon Turnaround Has Novartis Exploring Spin-off
With its Alcon turnaround plans on track, Novartis AG revealed it is exploring options that include spinning off Alcon or issuing an IPO for the eye-care unit – or even keeping it. Alcon lost $120 million in fourth-quarter 2016 and $132 million for the year versus a profit of $281 million in 2015. Novartis CEO Joseph Jimenez said he expects the corporate review of what to do with Alcon to take all of 2017.

After Phase III Disappoints, Inotek Looks to Fixed-Dose Combination
Since Inotek Pharmaceuticals reported disappointing Phase III top-line results for its lead clinical candidate, trabodenoson, its stock has taken a pounding, falling 77% since the beginning of the year. Inotek president and CEO David Southwell said monotherapy trabodenoson “has always been something of a secondary priority for us,” and the company is hoping that ahead-of-schedule development of a fixed-dose combination of trabodenoson with latanoprost turns its fortunes around.

Is Trump Opening New Front in War on Drug Prices?
Just before his inauguration, then President-Elect Donald Trump said at a press conference that pharma was “getting away with murder” and suggested that Medicare should negotiate drug prices, casting a pall on pharma stocks. Meanwhile, many states are tinkering with ideas to rein in drug prices, so the war may be far from over.

Novartis Ponies up $465 Million for Encore Vision
Novartis closed its acquisition of presbyopia drop developer Encore Vision Inc., revealing in an SEC filing that it paid $375 million “before ordinary purchase price adjustments” up front and another $90 million in milestone payments. Encore Vision will operate under Novartis Pharmaceuticals’ ophthalmology business, which it formed last year by combining its retina medicines business with the Alcon pharmaceuticals business.

Surgical Robot Removes Retinal Blood Clot in RVO
Surgeons at the University Hospitals Leuven in Belgium performed the first operation using a surgical robot to remove a blood clot in a retinal vessel on a patient with retinal vein occlusion (RVO). The robot, developed specifically for this procedure, used a 0.03-mm needle to inject a thrombolytic agent into the retinal vein of the patient. The next step is for a Phase II trial to determine the clinical effect of robotic surgery for patients with RVO.