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Novartis Acquires Nuclear Meds Developer in $3.9B Deal

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(3844328, Pixabay)

30 October 2017. Drug maker Novartis is purchasing a company that develops therapies and diagnostics using radio isotopes for neuroendocrine and other cancers. The agreement calls for Novartis to acquire all of the shares issued by Advanced Accelerator Applications in Saint-Genis-Pouilly, France for $3.9 billion.

Advanced Accelerator Applications designs and produces what the company calls molecular nuclear medicine theragnostics, where radiation-emitting compounds can either detect and identify cancer cells, or treat the cancer, depending on the type of radiation emitted by the compounds. The theragnostics are designed with an affinity for receptors expressed on the cancer cells, with gallium Ga-68 used in the compounds for diagnostics and lutetium Lu-177 for treatment.

The company’s first treatment focus is neuroendocrine cancers, where tumors form on tissue that release hormones resulting from signals originating in the nervous system. These cancers can produce larger volumes of hormones than normal, which can cause symptoms in various parts of the body, including adrenal glands, lungs, skin, brain, and gastrointestinal tract.

The lead product for Advanced Accelerator Applications is brand-named Lutathera, a formulation of Lu-177 designed to treat gastroenteropancreatic or mid-gut neuroendocrine tumors, which up to now have few therapies. Data from a late-stage clinical trial reported in New England Journal of Medicine in January 2017 show patients receiving Lutathera have longer progression-free survival times than similar patients receiving the current standard of care including the hormone chemotheraphy drug Octreotide. About two-thirds of Lutathera recipients (65%) reported progression-free survival after 20 months, compared to 11 percent in the comparison group. The company says Lutathera recipients also report high response rates in their treatments, with acceptable safety and tolerability profiles.

Lutathera was approved for sale in Europe in September 2017, and is under review by FDA in the U.S., with a target completion date of 26 January 2018. Advanced Accelerator Applications also has a line of diagnostic products with radioisotopes on the market. In 2016, the company reported €106 million ($US 123 million) in sales. In addition, the company is developing diagnostics and treatments for prostate, breast, and gastrointestinal cancers, now in preclinical and early-stage trials.

The acquisition of Advanced Accelerator Applications is expected to bolster Novartis’s cancer drug offerings, including treatments for neuroendocrine tumors. Novartis plans to acquire all shares of Advanced Accelerator Applications stock for $41 a share, which values the company’s equity at $3.9 billion. Novartis says it will raise the funds through short- and long-term debt.

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