Troubled XOMA Nails Immuno-Oncology Pact Worth $530 Million+ With Novartis AG

Troubled XOMA Nails Immuno-Oncology Pact Worth $530 Million+ With Novartis AG
October 1, 2015
By Alex Keown, Breaking News Staff

BERKELEY, Calif. – Swiss-based Novartis AG struck a deal worth more than $500 million with XOMA Corporation to acquire rights to the company’s anti-transforming growth factor-beta (TGFb) antibody program, Xoma announced this morning.

Under terms of the deal, Xoma will receive $37 million in upfront payments, with the remaining $480 million in regulatory and commercial milestone payments.

Xoma said the funds raised through this deal with Novartis will fund current research and development work on its endocrine portfolio and other operations through 2017. The company said it remains on track to begin its XOMA 358 Phase II clinical program this fall.

Xoma’s ticked up nearly 40 percent this morning after news of the deal was announced, hitting a high of $1.19 per share. The stock has yet to recover after it crashed 77 percent in July after the company announced its lead pipeline candidate, gevokizumab, failed to achieve the primary endpoint in a phase III study. The drug was being evaluated to reduce the risk of Behçet's disease uveitis exacerbations.

"XOMA and Novartis have worked closely together for several years to develop new product candidates. 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 whom it may help," John Varian, chief executive officer of XOMA said in a statement. "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.

In 2014, Xoma was forced to stop testing gevokizumab as an arthritis treatment after the drug did not show significant benefit against placebo after a six-month period.

Novartis’s deal will help bolster its oncology platform, something the company has been making strides in this year. Earlier this month, Novartis launched Novartis Access, a portfolio of 15 medicines to treat chronic disease in 30 developing and third-world countries. Medications included in the portfolio will be used to treat cardiovascular diseases, diabetes, respiratory illnesses, and breast cancer, the company said.

After several rounds of legal action, earlier this month Novartis launched the first U.S. biosimilar Zarxio, used to treat severe neutropenia in cancer patients undergoing myelosuppressive chemotherapy.

In July, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved Novartis’ Odomzo for the treatment of advanced basal cell carcinoma. Odomzo is one of the company’s portfolio of targeted treatments for advanced skin cancers.

XOMA 089, the company’s antibody discovery platform, is a fully human, high-affinity, late preclinical monoclonal antibody that neutralizes TGFb1 and 2 while sparing TGFb3. Data shows the compound to be both active against tumor growth in preclinical models of head and neck cancer as well as breast cancer and breast cancer metastasis, Xoma said in a statement. Preclinical data also suggest that it may be synergistic with PD1 inhibition. Transforming growth factor-beta (TGFb) is a potent immune suppressive cytokine that plays a role in the progression of advanced cancer and fibrosis if elevated. Elevated levels of TGFb may drive the progression of numerous diseases, including advanced metastatic cancer and fibrosis, Xoma said.

Xoma said three isoforms of TGFb exist in humans -- TGFb1, 2 and 3. TGFb1 is overexpressed in many cancers and is believed to increase the likelihood of metastasis. Inhibiting TGFb1 and 2 while sparing TGFb3 may reduce tumor-protecting regulatory T cells, while allowing for the development of cytotoxic immune responses enhanced by TGFb3, improving the therapeutic index of TGFb inhibitors. Given the role of the TGFb pathway in cancer, it has become an attractive target for cancer drug development.

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