Select Committee on Science and Technology Appendices to the Minutes of Evidence


Supplementary memorandum submitted by Novartis Pharmaceuticals Ltd


  Novartis is a global leader in healthcare and is committed to improving health and well-being through innovative products and services. As a pioneer of research into emerging technologies, Novartis supports science and innovation, investing more than £1.5 billion annually world-wide.

  This memorandum addresses the following areas as discussed in the DTI White Paper, "Excellence and Opportunity", and outlines the ongoing contribution of Novartis in these areas:

    (I)  Active promotion of public confidence in science to improve public acceptability of new technologies.

    (II)  The ongoing development of new and innovative technologies.

    (III)  Considerable capital and non-capital investment in science.

    (IV)  Willingness for public/private sector partnership to advance scientific understanding.

    (V)  Importance of maintaining a positive research environment in the UK.


  Genuine public debate is crucial to the acceptability of new scientific developments. There is continuing need therefore to find appropriate forms of dialogue that will help bridge the gap between scientists and the public. Novartis believes that it is the responsibility of scientists, research establishments, governments and NGOs, as well as companies like Novartis, to promote public confidence in science and innovation.

Channels of Communication

  Consumer confidence in science invariably depends on how well the public understands science and, in particular, newer technologies that are unfamiliar and for which the implications are unclear. Novartis is committed to open communication about their business, addressing the risks involved in the use of modern science as openly as the benefits (see examples in "Novartis Response to the Science & Technology Committee's Inquiry into the 1993 White Paper "Realising our Potential"). The quality of an informed public debate can be improved by involving key groups in this process.

  The media play a very crucial role in informing the public, setting the agenda and building public perceptions about science. The exchange of information between scientists and the media is crucial to ensuring constructive dissemination of information to the public ultimately. Novartis brings together scientists and the media to improve this exchange and continues to develop productive relationships with both groups.

  The Internet has an important role to play in the dissemination of information to the public. Novartis encourages and supports academic institutions in publicising their websites, making them more user-friendly and aimed at improving public understanding of science.

  As part of the company's commitment to the use of the Internet as an innovative way of teaching science, Novartis hosted a live "Science Webcast" of two scientific experiments transmitted into school classrooms in 2000.

  Scientists have an important role to play in explaining science to the public in a way that will improve public understanding of science.

  Together with the Institute of Biology, Novartis has provided a number of scientists with media training. This training allows scientists the opportunity to rehearse effective communication of science through modern media such as television and radio, in a way the public will understand.

  Novartis also supports the British Association in a variety of activities and "Scientists for the New Century", a monthly lecture series presented by the Royal Institution and The Times newspaper. The lecture series aims to bring Britian's emerging scientists to the attention of the general public and every month in 2000, a speaker delivered a lecture about the cutting edge science being undertaken currently in Britain. In order to give younger scientists opportunity to shine, all of the lecturers are under 40 years. In 2001, this lecture series will continue and eight scientists will be chosen to speak on the basis of academic excellence and their ability to communicate.

  Another Royal Institution activity Novartis supports is a medical lecture series at the Royal Institution where the public are invited to question doctors and scientists about the latest developments in life threatening conditions.

The Novartis Foundation

  Dialogue among scientists is essential to advance scientific learning. "The Novartis Foundation" with premises based in London, is a forum where scientists from all over the world can exchange their knowledge and ideas. Every year, the Foundation organises numerous scientific symposia, which are subsequently published in book form.

Support of Charities/Patient Organisations

  Charitable organisations and in particular, patient support groups, play an important role involving patients in the delivery of effective healthcare. By communicating reliable information that patients understand, support groups empower patients to take responsibility for their health. Novartis supports a number of charities including the Parkinson's Disease Society and the National Kidney Foundation.


  Novartis' core businesses are in pharmaceuticals, consumer health, generics, eye-care and animal health. Novartis invests over £1.7 billion globally each year in research and development (R&D). We are one of the leading companies in the world for investment in R&D.

Developments in Biotechnology and Genomics

  Modern biotechnology, and especially gene technology, is indispensable to modern biomedical research. Its application can be used for the prevention, diagnosis and treatment of diseases. The use of gene technology has already led to progress in treating cancer. Novartis is looking at using biotechnology, in collaboration with outside partners to gain insights into the processes of viruses, bacteria and cells, to understand the causes of specific human diseases and their possible genetic links and to help introduce specific genes or knock out existing genes to correct certain genetic processes.

  We are committed to three key principles in our use of biotechnology: it must be safe, it must bring benefits and it must be used in a responsible manner.

Pharmaceutical Development

  March 2000 saw the launch of a new anti-epileptic drug from Novartis in the UK. It represents the first anti-epileptic drug approved for first-line use in the past five years and offers hope to newly diagnosed patients and those who cannot achieve satisfactory control with current treatments. It is more convenient for patients to use and simpler than current treatments.

  Planned soon are new treatments for diabetes, irritable bowel syndrome and eczema for which regulatory approval is currently awaited. A new asthma treatment is also due to be introduced this year.

  Joint R&D partnerships with third parties, individuals and universities are also important to progress in the development of pharmaceuticals. Collaboration between Novartis and the Royal Free Hospital contributed to the development of Simulect, an important drug to assist in successful organ transplantation.

Developments in Consumer Health

  Novartis Consumer Health is a world leader in the fast-changing consumer health market, and focuses on over-the-counter (OTC) medicines, medical nutrition and health and functional nutrition.

  As well as projects in nutrition, a new programme has been established to help discover and develop proprietary and novel ingredients, which has found promising leads in the therapeutic areas of pain/inflammation, immune systems, cardiovascular and lifestyle management.

Innovations in Eye Care

  Through innovations and quality in contact lenses, lens care products, ophthalmic pharmaceuticals and ophthalmic surgery, CIBA Vision, a Novartis company, has pioneered many advances in eye care. Products are sold to consumers and eye care professionals in the UK.

  Visudyne therapy, the first effective treatment for age-related macular degeneration (AMD), was recently launched in the UK. This is a new treatment that helps prevent the most frequent cause of blindness amongst people over the age of 50.

  Novartis research provides CIBA Vision with new chemical entities for future products, new applications for existing designs and access to the latest developments in biotechnology. These resources are complemented by licensing agreements and joint R&D partnerships with third parties, individuals and universities.

  Working with Novartis Pharmaceuticals, CIBA Vision is exploring anti-angiogenesis to treat diabetic retinopathy and neuroprotectors to treat optic nerve diseases such as glaucoma. Phase III clinical trials for Rescula, a new glaucoma treatment are also under way in the US. In addition, an artificial cornea and an accommodating lens with the potential to delay the onset of presbyopia are in development.


  In the UK alone, Novartis is spending £1 million every week on pharmaceutical research.

  Novartis has a current capital investment programme of £100 million to develop key research and manufacturing facilities around the country, including London and Grimsby.

  Novartis is establishing a £40 million world-class centre for respiratory research in Horsham, West Sussex which will be one of the largest single-site research groups in the world dedicated to this therapeutic area. The centre will also host international pre-clinical and clinical operations for other therapeutic research areas. Each major step of the pharmaceutical product development process is undertaken at Horsham, from compound discovery and research right through to manufacturing.

  The investment in new, state of the art facilities attracts international scientists to employment in the UK.


  Public/private sector partnership is an important part of maintaining the excellence of the Science Base in the UK. These external relationships widen the sector's scientific and technological capabilities as well as improve access to new discoveries. Drug discovery, for example, nowadays requires the involvement of a wide range of disciplines. To complement Novartis' own in-house efforts the company is establishing links with groups that have particular expertise in platform technologies—areas of expertise that provide the basic scientific input into drug discovery—such as genomics, combinatorial chemistry and high-throughput screening.

  Novartis supports emphasis in the guidance for the next RAE (Research Assessment Exercise), in 2001, that basic and strategic research done in confidence for business should be given equal weight alongside papers published in peer review journals.

Collaboration with Academic Institutions

  It is important to encourage the ablest people to engage in science in Britain. Novartis makes a considerable investment in collaborative industrial studentships organised through research councils including the Medical Research Council (MRC) and the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC).

  Novartis collaborates with a number of institutions in the UK to research respiratory disease and also supports "Link Awards" where together with research councils, the company provides funding for broader research at universities across the country.

Collaboration with the NHS

  Novartis supports hospital research teams by meeting the salary requirements of research posts in major centres of excellence.

  Collaboration in clinical research is increasingly difficult in the face of significant overhead charges and slow approval processes with MREC forcing Novartis to seek liaison with other countries.


  Three key environmental factors influence the suitability of the UK as a research base;

Skilled Labour

  The UK has traditionally cultivated a prosperous science based through investment in science education. It is important to maintain this pool of labour to retain pharmaceutical company activity in the UK.

Stable Regulatory Policies

  Improved timeliness, ethical approval processes and start up times for trials is vital to maintain a strong research base.

Freedom of Threat from Anti-science/Animal Activists

  Delays in approval for animal research and attacks on research establishments are reducing the viability of the UK as a research base. This situation must be improved.

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