Artios Pharma CEO Niall Martin, PhD

Novartis has agreed to identify and validate next-generation DNA Damage Response (DDR) targets for precision cancer treatments using Artios Pharma’s discovery platform, through a collaboration that could generate more than $1.3 billion for Artios.

The companies plan to discover and validate targets that enhance Novartis’ Radioligand Therapies (RLTs) through a three-year research collaboration. Novartis will select up to three exclusive DDR targets, and receive worldwide rights on these targets for use with its RLTs, which are designed to deliver targeted radiation to a specific subset of cancer cells with minimal effect on surrounding healthy cells.

Novartis will pay Artios $20 million upfront, plus near-term research funding toward the collaboration. The pharma giant also agreed to pay Artios up to $1.3 billion in payments tied to achieving discovery, development, regulatory, and sales-based milestones, plus royalties on net sales of products commercialized by Novartis.

“This collaboration expands the reach of our discovery platform, leveraging our DDR expertise and target knowledge to enhance the potential of radioligand therapies,” Artios Pharma CEO Niall Martin, PhD, said in a statement. “From a strategic perspective, this collaboration is an ideal fit which maximizes the application of our platform to areas beyond our current focus as we independently advance our pipeline of novel DDR candidates.”

Novartis has grown its RLT pipeline through in-house R&D plus the acquisitions of Advanced Accelerator Applications for $3.9 billion in 2017, and Endocyte for $2.1 billion a year later.

Novartis’ venture fund is among investors in Artios—along with AbbVie Ventures, Andera Partners, Arix Bioscience, IP Group, Life Science Partners, M Ventures, Pfizer Ventures and SV Health Investors.

Based at the Babraham Research Campus in Cambridge, U.K., with an office in New York City, Artios has built a pipeline of DDR programs designed to target hard-to-treat cancers, including its ATR inhibitor ART0380, which entered Phase I/IIa clinical studies earlier this year to treat DDR defective tumors, and the first-in-class Pol theta inhibitor ART4215 for monotherapy and combination treatments. Artios retains full rights to both candidates.

Novartis isn’t the only biopharma giant that is partnering with Artios. In December, Artios and Merck KGaA, Darmstadt, Germany, began collaborating to identify and develop precision oncology therapies targeting nucleases.

Merck KGaA has the right to opt into exclusive development and commercialization of compounds based on up to eight targets, in return for agreeing to pay Artios $30 million in upfront and near-term payments, plus up to $860 million in total milestone payments per target—up to $6.88 billion if all eight targets are successfully developed and commercialized.

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