Novartis has acquired rights to TQJ230 from Akcea Therapeutics, a novel cardiovascular drug that could become first-in-class and has the potential to treat million of patients.

TQJ230 is based on the RNA-targeting platform developed by Akcea and targets Lp(a), a lipoprotein which carries with it a significantly higher risk of cardiovascular disease in those with elevated levels.

If approved, the drug would be the first ever treatment for elevated Lp(a) – an independent genetic risk factor that lifestyle changes such as diet or exercise are unable to change, including cholesterol-lowering drugs.

Novartis has stated it will now take on worldwide development and commercialisation and has paid an upfront licence free of $150m to Akcea.

This follows a deal made in January involving an upfront payment of $75m and near-term payments of $225m including a $100m investment in Akcea by Novartis.

The licensing deals in January follow phase II results announced in November 2018 demonstrating that of patients on the highest dose of TQJ230 (20mg once weekly), 98% saw Lp(a) levels drop below the recommended risk threshold – an astonishing achievement.

John Tsai, head of global drug development and chief medical officer at Novartis, said: “We’re excited about the novel, RNA-targeting approach that could be a game-changer for people with elevated Lp(a).

“If our phase 3 trial succeeds, we expect that TQJ230 will become the leading treatment option and another pillar of our longstanding commitment to re-imagining cardiovascular medicine.”

Lp(a) is a lipoprotein that travels through the blood, and elevated levels can mean collection in arteries, gradually narrowing them, limiting blood supply to the brain, kidneys, heart, and legs.

If left untreated elevated Lp(a) can lead to increased risk of coronary heart diseases, atherosclerosis, thrombosis and stroke.