Novartis AG Doubles Down on Immuno-Oncology, Acquires Admune and Inks Deals With XOMA and Palobiofarma

Novartis AG Doubles Down on Immuno-Oncology, Acquires Admune and Inks Deals with XOMA and Palobiofarma
October 21, 2015
By Mark Terry, BioSpace.com Breaking News Staff

Basel, Switzerland-based Novartis AG announced today that it is acquiring Admune Therapeutics and inking licensing agreements with Palobiofarma and XOMA Corporation . These deals will further expand the company’s presence in the field of immuno-oncology.

Admune, headquartered in Danvers, Mass., is a clinical stage biotech company focused on cytokine cancer therapies. It also is affiliated with Marine Polymer Technologies, Inc. (MPT), a company that focuses on hemostasis and wound healing. Along with the company, Novartis will acquire the company’s IL-15 agonist program, which is currently in Phase I clinical trials for metastatic cancer.

Palobiofarma, located in Barcelona, Spain, focuses on new drug development based on the modulation of adenosine receptors. Novartis acquired the rights to develop and commercialize PBF-509, an adenosine receptor antagonist that’s now in Phase I clinical trials for non-small cell lung cancer. Palobiofarma indicates the deal is worth $15 million.

XOMA Corporation is located in Berkeley, Calif. XOMA focuses on developing therapeutic antibodies. The deal gives Novartis rights to develop and commercialize XOMA’s TGF-beta antibody programs. Under this agreement, XOMA receives $37 million in an upfront payment, and could receive up to $480 million in milestones, as well as mid-single digit to low double digit royalties. Novartis also extended the maturity date on about $13.5 million of outstanding debt under a secured note agreement.

XOMA and Novartis have worked closely together for several years to develop new products,” said John Varian, chief executive officer of XOMA in a statement. “When they expressed interest in our anti-TGFb program, we knew Novartis was the best company to bring this exciting potential therapy to the patients who it may help. Novartis is recognized as a leader in oncology, where an anti-TGFb molecule has real potential either as monotherapy or in combination with other therapeutic options.”

These various programs and drugs will join four candidates Novartis currently has in clinical trials, as well as five more that is expected to start clinical programs in 2016. In Phase I trials Novartis has MCS-110, a myeloid cell targeting program, and checkpoint inhibitors targeting PD-1 (PDR001) and LAG-3 (LAG525). The company’s chimeric antigen receptor T-cell (CART) program, CTL019, is in Phase II trials. It’s MGB453, anti-TIM-3 program, is expected to begin clinical trials by the end of this year. And a STING agonist program, MIW815, via a collaboration with Aduro Biotech, as well as a GITR agonist, are projected to begin first-in-human clinical trials in 2016.

“The first wave of immuno-oncology therapies has demonstrated the impact this approach can have in treating certain types of tumors,” said Mark Fishman, president of the Novartis Institutes for BioMedical Research, in a statement. “To realize its full potential require exploration of the complex system of biological pathways in the tumor microenvironment with agents that can stimulate the immune system to attack a wider variety of tumors.”

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