Novartis announced that it is adding to its diverse and deep immuno-oncology pipeline through a strategic alliance and licensing agreement with Surface Oncology.
The agreement gives Novartis access to four pre-clinical programmes that target regulatory T cell populations, inhibitory cytokines, and immunosuppressive metabolites in the tumor microenvironment. These programmes will be explored as monotherapies and in combination with other complementary therapies in Novartis’ immuno-oncology and targeted therapy portfolios.
“We have several programmes now in the clinic that aggressively address the complexities of the tumor microenvironment,” said Mark Fishman, president of the Novartis Institutes for BioMedical Research. “This alliance with Surface Oncology is another building block in our strategy to develop a portfolio of programs that we believe will lead the next wave of immuno-oncology medicines.”
At the start of 2015 Novartis launched a new immuno-oncology research team led by cancer vaccine pioneer Glenn Dranoff. In a short period of time, this team has rapidly built a broad portfolio of clinical and pre-clinical programmes focused on stimulating the body’s immune system to combat cancers through targeting critical regulatory steps in the anti-tumor immune response. Today the company’s immuno-oncology portfolio includes novel checkpoint inhibitors, chimeric antigen receptor T-cell (CART) technology, myeloid cell targeting agents, the T cell stimulating factor IL-15, STING agonists that enhance immune recognition of cancers, and adenosine receptor antagonists and TGF-beta blocking antibodies that overcome immunosuppression in the tumor microenvironment.
Seven of these candidates are already in clinical trials and five more are expected to enter the clinic individually and as combinations by the end of 2016. Novartis’ myeloid cell targeting programme (MCS110), anti-TIM-3 programme (MGB453), IL-15-agonist (NIZ985) checkpoint inhibitors targeting PD-1 (PDR001) and LAG-3 (LAG525), and a small molecule adenosine receptor antagonist (NIR178) are now in phase 1 clinical trials. The CART programme (CTL019) is in phase 2 clinical trials. A STING agonist (MIW815), a GITR agonist, and an anti-TGF-beta antibody are progressing toward first-in-human clinical trials in 2016.
This rich immuno-oncology pipeline together with a deep targeted therapy portfolio provides Novartis with the opportunity to attack cancer in powerful and complementary ways: through enhancing immune-mediated tumor destruction and promoting direct tumor cell killing. Together, these synergistic approaches may accomplish more durable clinical benefits for a larger proportion of cancer patients.
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