Novartis has announced a strategic alliance and licensing agreement with Surface Oncology giving it access to four preclinical programs targeting the cancer microenvironment. Novartis plans to investigate the programs as monotherapies or as combination treatments within its immuno-oncology and targeted therapy portfolio.
Specifically, the new programs target regulatory inhibitory cytokines, immunosuppressive metabolites and T-cell populations.
“We have several programs now in the clinic that aggressively address the complexities of the tumor microenvironment,” Mark Fishman, president of Novartis Institutes for BioMedical Research, said in a press release. “This alliance with Surface Oncology is another building block in our strategy to develop a portfolio of programs that we believe will lead the next wave of immuno-oncology medicines.”
Novartis started an immuno-oncology research team, led by Glenn Dranoff, a cancer vaccine specialist, in early 2015 that focuses on stimulating the immune system’s anti-cancer response. Through its efforts, the company reports that its immuno-oncology portfolio now includes myeloid cell targeting agents, checkpoint inhibitors, chimeric antigen receptor T-cell (CART) technology, the T-cell stimulating factor IL-15, STING agonists, and adenosine receptor antagonists, and TGF-beta blocking antibodies.
Seven of these candidates are now in clinical trials and others are expected to enter studies this year. Among the company’s ongoing Phase 1 and Phase 2 clinical trials are:
- A small molecule adenosine receptor antagonist (NIR178)
- IL-15-agonist (NIZ985) checkpoint inhibitors targeting LAG-3 (LAG525) and PD-1 (PDR001)
- The anti-TIM-3 program (MGB453)
- The myeloid cell targeting program (MCS110)
- The CART program (CTL019)
The Basel, Switzerland-based company plans to enter a GITR agonist, an anti-TGF-beta antibody, and a STING agonist (MIW8115) in a first round of clinical testing in 2016.