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Novartis AG to buy Mariana Oncology for $1 billion to build RLT assets

Novartis AG will buy a US-based biotechnology company Mariana Oncology to expand its cancer portfolio for $1 billion.

HQ Team

May 2, 2024: Novartis AG will buy a US-based biotechnology company Mariana Oncology to expand its cancer portfolio for $1 billion.

Mariana, headquartered in Watertown, Massachusetts develops radioligand therapies (RLTs) to treat cancers with high unmet patient needs, according to a Novartis statement.

Novartis will pay an additional $750 million in payments upon completion of pre-specified milestones.

RLTs harness the power of radioactive atoms to deliver radiation to target cells anywhere in the body. The goal of the targeted approach is to limit the damage to surrounding tissues. The cell-targeting compound is known as a ligand.

Small cell lung cancer

The acquisition gives Novartis a portfolio of RLT programs spanning lead optimisation to early development across a range of solid tumour indications such as breast, prostate and lung cancer – including an investigational drug MC-339, an actinium-based RLT being investigated in small cell lung cancer.

RLTs, or radiopharmaceuticals, are a form of precision medicine that combines a tumour-targeting molecule (ligand) with a therapeutic radioisotope (a radioactive particle). 

RLTs bind to specific receptors expressed on the surface of certain types of tumours. Once bound to a target cell, emissions from the therapeutic radioisotope cause DNA damage that can inhibit cell growth and replication and potentially trigger cell death. 

“The acquisition of Mariana Oncology reflects our commitment to radioligand therapy as one of our company’s key technology platforms and strengthens our leadership in this field,” said Fiona Marshall, President of Biomedical Research at Novartis.

Broader cancer types

Novartis will expand the breadth of these potential treatments to a broader range of cancer types, said Shiva Malek, Global Head of Oncology for Biomedical Research at Novartis.

“This acquisition brings to Novartis phenomenal talent and new capabilities in RLT research that complement our wide-ranging internal efforts to explore novel isotopes, combinations, disease areas, and more.”

Novartis has two approved RLTs for certain patients with metastatic castration-resistant prostate cancer and certain types of gastroenteropancreatic neuroendocrine tumours.

New isotopes

The company’s early and late pipeline has several programs in or entering the clinic, including a spectrum of studies and assets for prostate cancer, as well as other preclinical and discovery programs to identify the next wave of novel RLTs. 

Novartis is actively exploring new isotopes and new combinations with complementary mechanisms of action, as well as looking at new disease areas for RLT, according to the statement.

The global radiopharmaceuticals market size is projected to be more than $13.67 billion by 2032 from $5.2 billion in 2022 and is expanding at a CAGR of 10.2% between 2023 to 2032, according to BioSpace.

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