The deal, announced yesterday for an undisclosed amount, sees the Swiss Giant expand its cancer drug pipeline by adding Cambridge, Massachusetts-based Costim’s late discovery stage immunotherapy candidates against several targets.
Novartis spokesperson Anja von Treskow told Biopharma-Reporter.com the “acquisition adds novel immune modulating targets and expertise to accelerate Novartis cancer immunotherapy programme,” providing “important target space for novel mono and combination therapies.”
However, she confirmed to us the deal would not see Novartis gain any new technology platforms or facilities and was solely about the candidates.
“CoStim’s expertise in stimulating and inhibiting T-cell responses in tumors at various checkpoints expands our cancer immunology research program and accelerates our efforts to discover and develop new medicines that utilize the body’s immune system to treat cancer,” she added.
The candidates will be used in conjunction with Novartis’ chimeric antigen receptor (CAR) technology – developed along with the University of Pennsylvania – which works by drawing T cells directly from the patient’s blood and encoding them with generic instructions to seek and destroy cancer cells.
In 2012 Novartis acquired a Dendreon facility in New Jersey that manufactured the prostate cancer drug Provenge as part of its investment in CAR immunotherapies.
PD-1 monoclonal antibody
This deal will aid Novartis by delivering the firm its own programmed cell death protein 1 (PD-1) agent, von Treskow told us. “[This] will ensure freedom to do combination studies with any Oncology compounds.”
Earlier this month, Pfizer and Merck & Co. teamed up to investigate Merck’s anti-PD-1 monoclonal antibody, MK-3475 (lambrolizumab), which works by selectively achieving dual ligand blockade of the PD-1 protein allowing activation of the immune system’s T-cells that target cancer.
“These investigational therapies, which harness the body’s immune system to treat disease, may hold the greatest potential for patients with cancer when used in combination with other immuno-oncology agents,” said Dr. Mace Rothenberg, chief medical officer for Pfizer Oncology.