Soon-Shiong back to his roots: NantWorks acquires next-gen Abraxane in potential $1.3B deal

Billionaire investor Patrick Soon-Shiong buys the rights to a next-gen Abraxane from Sorrento Therapeutics – building on the drug that launched his own fortune.

Dr. Patrick Soon-Shiong must be feeling nostalgic for the cancer blockbuster that launched his fortune: He’s circling back to his Abraxane roots with an interesting new Phase 3 buy.

The pharmaceutical arm of Soon-Shiong’s sprawling NantWorks just acquired an Abraxane-like chemotherapy drug from its croney, Sorrento Therapeutics – for a cool $90 million up front. The deal could expand to be worth $1.3 billion, if certain regulatory and sales milestones are met.

How did this come about? NantPharma bought Sorrento Therapeutics’ subsidary, Igdrasol, and by extension its cancer drug, Cynviloq. It’s in a bio-equivalence trial right now, called Tribeca, and the companies are exploring the drug’s efficacy in an expanded number of indications.

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Sorrento Therapeutics, a San Diego biotech, teamed up with NantWorks this past December. The two built out yet another arm of the Soon-Shiong outfit – called Nantibody – that focuses on cancer immunotherapies. This involved $10 million in cash upfront for Sorrento Therapeutics and $100 million in NantCell equity.

Sorrento Therapeutics acquired the Igdrasol portfolio two years ago, in a deal worth $28.2 million. I spoke with Sorrento Therapeutics CEO Henry Ji at the time. He told me that Cynviloq was always meant to serve as a “next-generation form of Abraxane” – and was planning to file with the FDA by 2016.

The drug was developed first by South Korea-based Samyang Biopharmaceuticals to treat metastatic breast cancer, but has been through Phase 3 trials in the U.S. for pancreatic, ovarian and bladder cancers.

Soon-Shiong described the rationale for the buy in a statement:

Precision cancer medicine will require a multi-faceted treatment approach involving chemotherapy, immunotherapy, adoptive cellular therapy and next-generation precision medicine technologies, including such as genomics and proteomics diagnostics which NantWorks is developing. We are committing significant resources to the development of novel cancer therapies, including combination therapies, an area of significant unmet need. Chemotherapy is an important pillar to the combination with immunotherapy and natural killer cells, and the opportunity to develop combination regimens of low-dose metronomic use of this active drug is an important step in transforming cancer care as we know it today.”

[PHOTO: Getty Images]