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Novartis, Aduro Biotech Partner on Cancer Immunotherapy

T-cell

T-cell (NIAID/NIH)

30 March 2015. The pharmaceutical company Novartis is licensing cancer immunotherapy technology from Aduro Biotech in Berkeley, California. The collaboration could earn Aduro as much as $750 million, including an equity stake, for access to its work on cyclic dinucleotides, still in preclinical study, but considered promising as a cancer treatment.

Cyclic dinucleotides are naturally occurring molecules, found in both bacteria and mammals, but in mammals activate a signaling mechanism in immune-system cells. When stimulated, this pathway, known as Stimulator of interferon genes or Sting, induces production of cells and proteins that support and amplify the immune system.

Aduro says its technology develops engineered cyclic dinucleotides that are more potent in stimulating the Sting pathway than the naturally-produced variety, to encourage a response in T cells, key immune system cells. In tests with lab animals, the company reports injections of its cyclic dinucleotides directly into tumors, sharply inhibited growth of melanoma, colon, and breast tumors, and protected against regrowth of those tumors as well as spreading of cancer cells.

Under the deal Novartis receives rights to commercialize Aduro’s cyclic dinucleotide technology outside the United States, where Aduro retains commercialization rights including sales. The companies will share profits in the U.S., Japan, and major European countries. In addition, Aduro will qualify for royalties on sales of products from the collaboration in other parts of the world.

Novartis is paying Aduro an initial $200 million, with the potential for another $500 million if all development milestones are met. Novartis is also investing $25 million for a 2.7 percent equity stake in Aduro, with a commitment for another $25 million investment in the future.

Cyclic dinucleotides are a relatively new addition to Aduro’s pipeline. The company’s lead technology is based on engineered listeria bacteria that produce cancer immunotherapies, where two genes in the listeria genome making the bacteria infectious are deleted. The technology then modifies the genome to allow addition of tumor-specific antigens. Aduro has a product from this platform in an intermediate-stage clinical trial as a treatment for pancreatic cancer.

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Hat tip: FirstWord Pharma

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