Sorrento launches another joint venture with a $170M cancer deal

Sorrento Therapeutics ($SRNE), among the constellation of companies associated with billionaire Patrick Soon-Shiong, is again widening its R&D mission with a joint venture, teaming up with a California cancer center on some novel antibody technology.

Through a deal with the independent cancer research group City of Hope, Sorrento is paying up to $170 million to get its hands on technology that could allow antibody treatments to penetrate human cells. The pair has formed a joint venture called LA Cell to push the platform forward, turning their attention to oncology. The $170 million figure includes an undisclosed up-front payment, plus some equity and potential milestones down the line, Sorrento said.

City of Hope's work centers on a proprietary method of rewiring monoclonal antibodies to help them break into cells while retaining their affinity for target proteins. Antibody therapeutics have long since proved their ability to treat disease, but they've until now been unable to crack the cell's cytoplasm, Sorrento said, limiting the number of targets they can pursue.

LA Cell plans to take City of Hope's technology and fashion antibodies for oncology targets widely considered undruggable, including c-MYC, mutated KRAS, STAT3 and FoxP3. The platform also has potential in inflammation, autoiummune disease, diabetes and CNS disorders, Sorrento said.

The deal follows a sprawling run of partnerships for Sorrento, starting in December when Soon-Shiong tapped the biotech for an immuno-oncology joint venture. In the months since, Sorrento has partnered with Soon-Shiong's NantKwest ($NK) and NantCell, later joining NantBioScience to launch a $100 million joint venture that will develop small-molecule treatments for some of the so-called undruggable targets in LA Cell's crosshairs.

But not all of Sorrento's many dealings exist within the NantWorks family. Last month, the company bought into biosimilars through a deal with China's Mabtech Limited, acquiring the rights to four undisclosed copies of best-selling treatments.

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