China biotech Laekna snaps up Novartis PD-L1 cancer therapy

Tuesday's announcement marks the third licensing deal between between Laekna and Novartis. (Novartis)

While all the rage seems to be focused on cell and gene therapies these days, Shanghai-based biotech Laekna Therapeutics still believes in the power of checkpoint inhibitors.

And why not, with Merck’s Keytruda powering through major sales records? The company wants a piece of the action and has penned a new deal with Swiss major Novartis to develop its phase 1 anti-PD-L1 antibody known as FAZ053.

Laekna says the plan now is to start trials on combo therapies (a favorite among PD-1 and PD-L1 drugs) across a range of cancers, though exact details were not shared on targets.

Sponsored by BHE

[Webinar] State of Data Analytics and Machine Learning in the Life Sciences Industry: 2020 Benchmarking Survey

Thursday, June 25, 2020 | 2:00pm ET | 11:00am PT

Join us Thursday, June 25th for a look at the current state of analytics in the life sciences industry. We will present the results from our industry survey with FiercePharma on how 100 of your peers are leveraging data analytics to respond to today’s challenges and generate timely, high value insights.

“With this move, the company aims to advance clinical research and introduce pioneering new drugs to patients, including the rapidly growing cancer patient population in China,” the biotech said.

“A combination of PD-L1 Antibody with chemotherapy, or targeted therapy can greatly improve treatment response and prolong survival,” said Yong Yue, M.D., Ph.D., chief medical officer of Laekna. “We have mapped a number of combination strategies to treat a variety of cancers that do not respond or are resistant to checkpoint inhibitor treatments.”

Laekna said it will kick-start the combo test “as soon as possible” to help cancer patients in China. Many trials in Europe and the U.S. have been beset by delays over the spread of the COVID-19 disease, but China appears to be relaxing some of its more stringent lockdown policies; it remains to be seen how much this will impact trials such as the ones Laekna is plotting.  

This is the third in a recent series of pacts between Laekna and Novartis, which includes it nabbing global rights to develop a CYP17 inhibitor (CFG920), an oral androgen inhibitor, for prostate cancer as well as a pair of oral pan-Akt kinase inhibitors originally from GlaxoSmithKline. In 2018, Novartis took an equity stake in the biotech.

“Novartis is a global leader in oncology drug innovation and we believe that the three oncology assets we have acquired from Novartis have great synergistic anti-cancer effects,” said Chris Lu, Ph.D., founder and CEO of Laekna. “This synergy will allow us to apply various combinations to treat many cancer indications, including triple negative breast cancer and prostate cancer.”

Novartis will receive an upfront payment with additional payments at key development milestones as well as royalties on future sales, though it did not give specifics on the dollar value of the deal.

Suggested Articles

Sema4 announced an expanded, formal partnership with the state of Connecticut to provide COVID-19 testing to residents.

The FDA granted an emergency authorization to Abiomed’s Impella RP heart pump system for COVID-19 patients suffering from right-sided heart failure.

I-MAB's anti-GM-CSF drug works "upstream" in inflammation pathways, potentially blocking several dangerous cytokines in COVID-19, executives…