The acquisition of Admune adds an IL-15 agonist program currently in phase I clinical trials for metastatic cancer. The licensing agreement with Palobiofarma gives Novartis development and commercialization rights to PBF-509, an adenosine receptor antagonist currently in phase I clinical trials for non-small cell lung cancer. The agreement with XOMA gives Novartis development and commercialization rights to XOMA’s TGF-beta antibody programs. All three programs will be explored as monotherapies and in combination with therapies in Novartis’ immuno-oncology and targeted therapy portfolios.
“The first wave of immuno-oncology therapies has demonstrated the impact this approach can have in treating certain types of tumors,” said Mark Fishman, president of the Novartis Institutes for BioMedical Research. “To realize its full potential requires exploration of the complex system of biological pathways in the tumor microenvironment with agents that can stimulate the immune system to attack a wider variety of tumors.”
In preclinical studies, IL-15 therapies have been shown to activate CD8+, CD4+ memory T cells and Natural Killer (NK) cells that play a critical role in stimulating the immune system. Adenosine and TGFß both drive immune suppression in the tumor microenvironment, which allows cancer cells to escape immune surveillance, making inhibition of those two pathways an attractive next-generation immuno-oncology approach.