NantBioscience, Sorrento Form $100 Million JV to Develop Moonshot Cancer Program

Published: Jul 10, 2015

NantBioscience, Sorrento Form $100 Million JV to Develop Moonshot Cancer Program
July 9, 2015
By Riley McDermid, Breaking News Sr. Editor

San Diego-based Sorrento Therapeutics, Inc. will team up with NantBioScience, Inc., a majority owned subsidiary of NantWorks, to develop 'first-in-class' small molecules as way to head off cancer growth using therapies like stem cells, the companies said Thursday. The project has been dubbed “Moonshot.”

The news follows on the heels of a mid-May announcement that world’s richest doctor and his constellation of companies, NantWorks, had snapped up promising cancer treatment Cynviloq by buying a subsidiary of Sorrento Therapeutics, Inc. for more than $1.3 billion, the companies said May 15.

The deal will give Sorrento $90 million in an upfront cash payment plus the potential for more than $600 million in regulatory and $600 million in sales milestone payments. The statement said NantWorks plans to use the drug in multiple cancer indications as part of its buyout of Igdrasol, Inc., a wholly-owned subsidiary of Sorrento.

Today’s partnership will build on that relationship, said executives.

"Sorrento's mission is to expeditiously and efficiently bring innovative therapies to cancer patients in need," said Henry Ji, president and chief executive, in a statement. "This partnership, focused on the development of our innovative small molecules, will allow us to realize Sorrento's vision, align our resources on our immuno-oncology and cell therapy assets, and put Sorrento at the forefront of cancer therapy."

The head of NantWorks is Patrick Soon-Shiong, dubbed “the world’s richest doctor” by Forbes magazine. He is also the former founder of Abraxis and American Pharmaceutical Partners, which he sold for a combined $9.1 billion. He also invented the drug Abraxane, for use against pancreatic cancer.

"We are extremely pleased with the recent Cynviloq Tribeca study results and excited that Dr. Patrick Soon-Shiong and his NantPharma team plan to expand Cynviloq into multiple cancer indications, as well as combine it with immunomodulatory antibodies and cell therapies from Sorrento's pipeline," said Ji at the time.

Soon-Shiong certainly seems intent on building out his business portfolio. Earlier that same week, Culver City, Calif.-based NantBioscience, Inc., a division of NantWorks, Soon-Shiong’s umbrella company, reported to the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) that it had received another $100 million into funding from NantWorks.

So far, NantBioScience has received almost $200 million in funding since its founding in 2013. Further breakdown includes $300 million to NantHealth, $10 million to NantOmics and $80 million to NantMobile.

NantBioScience works to develop molecularly-targeted drugs based on a genetic and molecular profile of the patient’s tumor. Soon-Shiong’s umbrella company, NantWorks, is attempting to connect and integrate all the information regarding a patient and combine it with genetic information in a way that has never been done before.

"Treatment of patients with cancer will require a multi-faceted approach involving chemotherapy, immunotherapy, adoptive cellular therapy and next-generation precision medicine platforms," said Soon-Shiong in a statement Thursday. "We are committing significant resources to the development of novel and innovative cancer therapies, including small molecules as components of targeted combination therapy strategies.”

Soon-Shiong said the project’s name reflected those aims.

“At NantBioScience, we are pursuing the equivalent of the moonshot in the oncology space by developing drugs targeting mutant KRAS, RAL, and now cMyc, ? and HIF-1 alpha, ? as well as drugs inducing TRAIL expression and p53 activity. Only by developing drugs for these widely-considered ‘undruggable’ targets do we have a hope of winning our war against cancer. Through this joint venture and the other ongoing collaborations we have with Sorrento, we are focused on transforming cancer therapy as we know it today and provide cancer patients with innovative treatment options ?for their thus far unmet medical needs."

As New Jersey Biotech Booms, Will It Overtake Other States As Prime Location?
A week after Celgene Corporation announced it is officially the mystery buyer of Merck & Co. ’s former 1 million-square-foot R&D site in Summit, N.J., it quickly became our most popular story last week.

The company announced last Wednesday that it is buying the space, ending months of speculation about what Big Pharma company might move into the neighborhood.

The Summit, N.J. site is zoned research/office. The New Jersey site would put operations closer to some of the major biotech and pharmaceutical hubs on the East Coast.

But, by far, the most tempting part of doing business in the state remains New Jersey’s operating tax credit, which allows companies to sell their net operating losses to the New Jersey Treasury. One of the state’s most recognizable biotechs, Celgene, used the program until it became profitable, which was key to it staying in the state, said local officials.

That has BioSpace is wondering if New Jersey is becoming the new face of biotech. What do you think? Can the Garden State compete with other longtime stalwarts like California or Boston?

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