Novartis AG (NYSE:NVS) has entered an agreement with UK-based Artios Pharma to access DNA damage response targets having the potential of enhancing its radioligand drugs. The agreement will center around the development of cancer treatments through next-generation DDR targets discovery and validation.
Novartis enters agreement with Artios
According to the agreement’s terms, Novartis will pay Artios $20 million upfront and up to $1.3 billion in milestone payment for the DDR targets. Artios is a DDR specialist which exploits synthetic lethality in the creation of precision cancer treatments. The three-years collaboration will see the companies discover and validate three DDR targets for exclusive global use by Novartis. The agreement aims to find targets to add to the Swiss Pharma’s potential radioligand therapies.
Usually, cancer cells are predisposed to damage due to the rate at which they replicate. However, there are basic DNA repair mechanisms ideal for fixing these problems. Interestingly it is possible to upregulate the repair mechanisms in cancer cells. Since radioligands and some therapies can damage DNA, if the damage gits an upregulated pathway, you encounter resistance.
Artios has been working on getting to the bottom of DNA repair factors, which are critical to Novartis radioligands in discovering DDR targets that can enhance efficacy. Niall Martin, Artios CEO, said that there are targets that they knock out the DNA repair factors and process what enhances certain cancer cells; they will have effective radioligands. He said that it is a combination of two things coming together.
Novartis intensifying radioligand therapies investment
In recent years, Novartis has been building its radiopharmaceutical business through Advanced Accelerator Applications and Endocyte acquisitions and inhouse investments of $2.1 billion and $3.9 billion, respectively. Most importantly, this strategy is starting to yield returns. Last month, the company announced that the therapy behind the Endocyte acquisition had achieved a milestone in a third phase prostate cancer study.
Interestingly other research groups consider radiopharmaceuticals and DDR as complementary approaches. DDR drugs stop the enzyme from repairing DNA breaks; thus, it is likely that DNA damaging agents like radioligands can combine with DDR therapies.