Case | HBS Case Collection | April 2003 (Revised October 2004)

Novartis: The Challenge of Success (A)

by Sandra J. Sucher and Stacy McManus


Preliminary results from Phase 1 clinical trials of a newly developed compound, STI571, showed that 31 out of 31 patients with chronic myelogenous leukemia (CML) had their blood counts return to normal. In the world of oncology, this was unheard of. This was the unexpected data processed by Alex Matter, head of oncology research at Novartis, AG. CML was a rare form of cancer that affected a very small number of individuals in the world. The development of STI571 was a pioneering concept in genetically targeted drug development. This case enables students to decide whether and how they would advance the development, production, and distribution of the drug given these extraordinarily successful Phase 1 results. Provides details on factors that complicate this decision, including production complexity, precedents from other high-profile drug treatments, and market pressures.

Keywords: Decision Making; Health Testing and Trials; Innovation and Invention; Markets; Distribution; Product Development; Production; Problems and Challenges; Research; Research and Development; Complexity; Biotechnology Industry; Pharmaceutical Industry;


Sucher, Sandra J., and Stacy McManus. "Novartis: The Challenge of Success (A)." Harvard Business School Case 603-043, April 2003. (Revised October 2004.)