Novartis buys cancer immunotherapy startup co-founded by venture investors

A biotechnology company formed by two MPM Capital managing directors to develop monoclonal antibody drugs to fight cancer has been acquired by Novartis, according to a company statement. The move follows Novartis’ deal with University of Pennsylvania to collaborate on chimeric antigen receptor technology and reflects a relatively dramatic shift in the past year toward […]

A biotechnology company formed by two MPM Capital managing directors to develop monoclonal antibody drugs to fight cancer has been acquired by Novartis, according to a company statement. The move follows Novartis’ deal with University of Pennsylvania to collaborate on chimeric antigen receptor technology and reflects a relatively dramatic shift in the past year toward commercializing cancer immunotherapies.

CoStim Pharmaceuticals collaborated with Dana Farber Cancer Institute, Harvard Medical School, Boston Children’s Hospital, Brigham and Women’s Hospital and Immutep SA to develop a portfolio of agents focused on multiple T cell regulatory targets, the statement said.

The terms of the deal were not disclosed.

Last year CoStim raised $10 million in a Series A round from MPM Capital and Atlas Ventures. Johnson & Johnson Development Corp. and Partners Innovation Fund also participated in the round.

 

Although using patients’ T cells to help them combat cancer is still very much in the early stages, researchers have been encouraged by its success in some blood cancers like acute myeloid leukemia. Other companies also see compelling opportunities in the space such as Kite Pharma,

In 2012, Novartis agreed to invest $20 million in a research and development center at Penn to commercialize novel cellular immunotherapies for cancer. Penn’s T cell research with Novartis is also the focus of a lawsuit by St Jude Children’s Research Hospital and, more recently, Juno Therapeutics.

Robert Millman was initially president of CoStim but Dr. Dan Hicklin later joined the company as chief scientific officer and president. Luke Evnin became the chairman.

[Photo credit: Credit: Peter Lane and Fiona McConnell, Wellcome Images]