Artios, Novartis Aim to Develop and Discover DDR Targets for Cancer in New Partnership

Novartis_Smith Collection/Gado/Getty Images

Smith Collection/Gado/Getty Images

Artios Pharma Limited has entered into a global research collaboration with Novartis for the purpose of discovering and validating next-generation DNA damage response (DDR) targets and enhancing Novartis’ radioligand therapies. Novartis will select up to three exclusive DDR targets under the research partnership and will also be granted global rights on these selected targets.

Artios is a DDR company with a focus on exploiting synthetic lethality for the purpose of developing precision therapies for cancer. The company is led by some of the individuals who pushed forward AstraZeneca and Merck’s DDR drug Lynparza (olaparib), which was the second PARP inhibitor approved for prostate cancer.

In addition to the new Novartis partnership, Artios also has a partnership with Cancer Research UK as well as collaborations with DNA repair researchers including The Institute of Cancer Research, London, the Netherlands Cancer Institute (NKI) and the Crick Institute, London.

Novartis has agreed to provide an upfront payment to Artios of $20 million, according to the terms of the agreement, and will also provide near-term research funding. The agreement terms also state that Artios will be eligible for discovery-, development-, regulatory- and sales-based milestone payments that could total up to $1.3 billion. Artios will also be eligible to receive royalty payments on net sales for Novartis-commercialized products.

The research partnership does not include ART0380, Artios’ lead program currently under clinical development, or first-in-class Pol Theta inhibitor ART4215 for monotherapy and combination treatment regimens.

“This collaboration expands the reach of our discovery platform, leveraging our DDR expertise and target knowledge to enhance the potential of radioligand therapies,” said Dr. Niall Martin, chief executive officer at Artios Pharma, in a statement. “We are thrilled to work with Novartis, and this combined with our recent collaboration with Merck KGaA provides important validation of the power of the internal discovery capabilities at Artios.”

Martin added that the collaboration with Novartis represents “an ideal fit” to maximize the company’s platform application “to areas beyond our current focus as we independently advance our pipeline of novel DDR candidates.”

Artios hopes the research partnership will build on the company’s recently launched Phase I study of ART0380, a potential best-in-class ATR inhibitor being developed for treating DDR-defective tumors. Martin said the company expects the candidate to enter the first-in-class Pol Theta program into the clinic before the end of the year.

Artios adds Novartis to its pool of research collaborators as it continues to build out its DDR pipeline. In December of last year, Artios entered into a three-year strategic collaboration agreement with Merck KGaA to discover and develop several precision drugs for cancer. The terms of that agreement states Artios will receive $30 million in upfront and near-term payments. In addition, Artios will be eligible to receive upwards of $860 million per selected target, pending Merck KGaA’s decision to exercise this option.

Novartis has also been recently active in industry collaborations, the most recent being a COVID-19 vaccine manufacturing agreement with CureVac. Under the terms of this agreement, Novartis will manufacturer CureVac’s mRNA and bulk drug product of CureVac’s CVnCoV, the latter company’s COVID-19 vaccine candidate, during the second quarter of this year. Novartis has agreed to set an anticipated production at up to 50 million doses by the end of 2021 as well as an additional 200 million doses next year.

And in December 2020, Novarits entered into a multi-year collaboration with RetinAI to support projects in ophthalmology and digital health using RetinAI artificial intelligence tools. Under the Master Agreement, the first project launched by the two companies will support an international study of optical coherence tomography image solutions using AI for the assessment of disease activity in patients with neovascular age-related macular degeneration.

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