Novartis will partner with Cerulean Pharma to develop nanoparticle-drug conjugates (NDCs) that combine Cerulean’s proprietary Dynamic Tumor Targeting™ technology with Novartis’ proprietary compounds, to be directed at up to five undisclosed cancer targets.

Cerulean said today it will generate $5 million upfront through the companies’ collaboration, plus funding for five full-time equivalent employees. Cerulean may potentially make millions more in payments tied to achieving preclinical, clinical, regulatory, and sales milestones for each target. Following regulatory approvals, Cerulean could also earn single-digit to low double-digit tiered royalties on net sales for each NDC product.

Under the collaboration, Cerulean will create NDC candidates using its Dynamic Tumor Targeting platform, with Novartis agreeing to oversee further development and commercialization of those products.

“This collaboration is further validation of our powerful technology platform, and we are excited that Novartis is including NDCs in its drug discovery and development efforts,” Cerulean president and CEO Christopher D.T. Guiffre said in a statement.

Separately, Cerulean said that a longtime shareholder, the institutional investor Aspire Capital Fund, has agreed to purchase $20 million of the company’s common stock— 800,000 shares at $1.25 per share. Cerulean also has the right to sell up to the remaining $19 million of its common stock to Aspire over 24 months, at prices based on a formula linked to current market prices at the time of each sale.

“This agreement with Aspire provides us access to capital to support our ongoing clinical efforts,” Giuffre noted. “We can use this facility to opportunistically strengthen our balance sheet without unnecessary dilution as we advance our CRLX101 and CRLX301 programs.”

CRLX101, Cerulean’s lead NDC, is in Phase II development for relapsed ovarian cancer in combination with weekly paclitaxel, and in Phase I for locally advanced rectal cancer (with capecitabine and radiotherapy), solid tumors with weekly dosing (monotherapy and in combination with Avastin [bevacizumab]), and solid tumors (in combination with Lynparza™ [olaparib]). CRLX101 is also in preclinical phases for solid tumors in combination with IDO inibitors.

CRLX301, Cerulean’s second NDC, is in a Phase I/IIa clinical trial assessing the candidate in solid tumors.

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