Novartis, the Swiss Biotech giant, has once again broadened its Immuno-oncology portfolio with the acquisition of US Admune Therapeutics (MA) and forming marketing, commercialization and development partnerships with California’s Xoma and Palobiopharma in Barcelona (Spain).

NovartisNovartis is a Basel giant in the biotech industry, with their research development programs spanning a broad range of fields and earning up to 8.92Bn last year alone (and almost 53Bn in global sales!). Recently we discussed their focus in immuno-oncology, which is proving to be the main thing talked about in biotech news today.

These partnerships will allow Novartis to monopolise the field even further. The acquisition of Admune Therapeutics means the adoption of their phase I agonist for metastatic cancer: IL-15 was shown to stimulate the immune system and activate CD8+, CD4+ memory T cells and Natural Killer (NK) in pre-clinical studies.

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Their  other 2 partnerships are for candidates which instead look to suppress cancer cell ability to mask itself from the immune system, therefore making them vulnerable to attack. Palobiopharma collaboration on the other hand grants Novartis marketing and commercialization rights to their non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) adenosine antagonist PBF-509.

Finally, the deal with Xoma gives development and commercialization rights to Novartis for their TGFβ -antibody programs. These monoclonal antibodies target the tumor growth factor exrpessed on cancer cells, and will be developed as stand-alone therapies or in conjunction with other immuno-oncology drugs (such as Lucatumumab which Novartis also shares a partnership with Xoma on). Xoma will be paid 33.3M upfront, with up to 432M in milestone payments.

Lucatumumab mechanism of action - another immuno-oncology therapy Novartis and Xoma have a partnership on (Source: Xoma)

Lucatumumab mechanism of action – another immuno-oncology therapy Novartis and Xoma have a partnership on (Source: Xoma)

Clearly, Cancer is the direction in which Novartis is headed, but perhaps the reason for the reluctance to buy more into the Israeli blood cancer field is that certain buying opportunities are still deemed too risky. So, this isn’t just a senseless spending spree cancer, but part of a much longer term strategic plan in Immuno-oncology.

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