Novartis digs deeper into cancer with up to $750 mln Aduro deal — Reuters

(Reuters) – Swiss drugmaker Novartis is digging deeper into the world of cancer immunotherapy – one of the hottest areas of drug research – through a tie-up with California-based Aduro Biotech worth up to $750 million.

Novartis will make an upfront payment of $200 million and Aduro could be eligible for a further $500 million if drug projects pan out.

In addition, Novartis is making an initial equity investment in Aduro of $25 million, with a commitment for another $25 million at a future date, the two companies said on Monday.

The move gives Novartis access to Aduro’s STING (Stimulator of Interferon Genes) technology, which is a next-generation method to harness the body’s immune system to combat cancer.

The Basel-based group is already working on a number of immunotherapies to fight cancer, including chimeric antigen receptor T-cell (CART) where its CTL019 product is in mid-stage Phase II clinical trials and is viewed as a potential market leader.

Mark Fishman, president of the Novartis Institutes for BioMedical Research, said Aduro’s technology could be used both on its own and in combination with other medicines.

“Current approaches with checkpoint inhibitors and T-cell modulation are potent but only in select tumour types. STING agonists have the potential to fully activate the immune system to attack a broader range of tumours,” he said.

Aduro will lead commercialisation and book sales from any eventual products in the United States, with Novartis taking the lead in the rest of the world. The companies will share in profits in the United States, Japan and major European countries, with Novartis will paying Aduro a royalty for sales in the rest of the world.