The addition of STING agonists adds firepower to Novartis' diverse portfolio of immunotherapies that includes chimeric antigen receptor T-cell (CART) technology and novel checkpoint inhibitors. Currently the CART program, CTL019, is in phase 2 clinical trials and checkpoint inhibitors targeting PD1, LAG3, and TIM3 are expected to enter the clinic in mid-2015.
STING is a signaling pathway that when activated is known to initiate broad innate and adaptive immune responses in tumors. Aduro's novel small molecule cyclic dinucleotides (CDN's) have proven to generate an immune response in preclinical models that specifically attacks tumor cells.
"Immunotherapy is one of the exciting frontiers in oncology today. Current approaches with checkpoint inhibitors and T-cell modulation are potent but only in select tumor types. STING agonists have the potential to fully activate the immune system to attack a broader range of tumors," said Mark Fishman, President of the Novartis Institutes for BioMedical Research. "Under Glenn Dranoff's leadership our new immuno-oncology research group will aggressively drive our current programs to the clinic and explore new directions for both mono and combination therapies."
Under the terms of the agreement with Aduro, Novartis will make an upfront payment of $200 million to Aduro and will make an initial equity investment in the company for $25 million, with a commitment for another $25 million equity investment at a future date. Aduro will lead commercialization activities and book sales in the US, with Novartis leading commercialization and recognizing sales in the rest of the world. The companies will share in profits in the US, Japan and major European countries. Novartis will pay Aduro a royalty for sales in the rest of the world.
Novartis provides innovative healthcare solutions that address the evolving needs of patients and societies. Headquartered in Basel, Switzerland, Novartis offers a diversified portfolio to best meet these needs: innovative medicines, eye care and cost-saving generic pharmaceuticals. Novartis is the only global company with leading positions in these areas. In 2014, the Group achieved net sales of USD 58 billion, while R&D throughout the Group amounted to approximately USD 9.9 billion (USD 9.6 billion excluding impairment and amortization charges). As of December 31, 2014 Novartis Group companies employed approximately 133,000 full-time-equivalent associates. Novartis products are available in more than 180 countries around the world.