Novartis AveXis shifted top scientific leadership before Zolgensma data scandal erupted

FiercePharma | August 14, 2019

Novartis AveXis shifted top scientific leadership before Zolgensma data scandal erupted
Novartis has said it shuffled staff at its under-the-gun gene therapy unit AveXis. Now we know who and when, at least when it comes to the top scientific leaders in that business. AveXis two top scientists were shunted aside in early May, right around the time Novartis confirmed internally that its gene therapy Zolgensmas approval application contained manipulated data but before it notified the FDA. AveXis former chief scientific officer, Brian Kaspar, and his brother Allan Kaspar, previously AveXis senior vice president of R and D, are no longer with the company, AveXis said Wednesday. In fact, they “have not been involved in any operations at AveXis since early May 2019.” And by the time the FDA was ready to go public with the data manipulation scandal, AveXis had a new scientific chief. The Kaspar brothers' jobs, rolled into one, went to Page Bouchard, most recently global head of preclinical safety for Novartis Institutes for BioMedical Research (NIBR). Bouchard stepped into the job Aug. 5, AveXis said, the day before the agency announced it was considering criminal and civil penalties for the faulty submission. Novartis CEO Vas Narasimhan has said the company was in the process of terminating “a small number of AveXis scientists” involved in Zolgensma data falsification. And the Kaspar brothers look to be among them. According to Narasimhan on a recent call with analysts, Novartis first received allegations of the manipulated data mid-March. Then an internal probe confirmed the allegation early May, though it didn’t inform the FDA until June 28, over a month after Zolgensma was approved by the FDA.

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