Novartis licenses out unwanted GlaxoSmithKline cancer drugs to Chinese biotech

Novartis headquarters
This is the second deal between Novartis and the Chinese biotech over the past year. (Wikimedia Commons / Andrew / Flickr)

Novartis has penned a pact with Shanghai-based biotech Laekna that will see it work on a pair of oral pan-Akt kinase inhibitors.

Specifically, the deal is for afuresertib (ASB183) and uprosertib (UPB795), two cancer drugs in phase 1 and 2 trials for a variety of cancers and originally developed by GlaxoSmithKline before the asset swap between the two Big Pharmas a few years back.

Both have been tested against ovarian and gastric cancers, multiple myeloma, melanoma and other indications.

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But not all have gone smoothly, as two years ago, Novartis and Dana-Farber killed off a phase 2 trial for uprosertib (a.k.a. GSK2141795) and another drug in cervical cancer in the U.S. due to “reasons related to drug supply.”

Novartis said in a statement that it will have an equity stake in Laekna, along with upfront and development milestone payments, and royalties on future sales. But it gave no details on just what this is worth.

Laekna says it has already “has mapped out” several clear registration paths for NDA approval, potentially as the first in class medicine.

The two are no strangers to each other, as last year they struck a deal that saw the biotech acquire global rights to develop a CYP17 inhibitor (CFG920), an oral androgen inhibitor, for prostate cancer.

"Novartis is a global leader in oncology drug innovation. This is the second licensing agreement between Laekna and Novartis, adding to the previous licensing of CFG920 less than a year ago," said Dr. Chris Lu, founder and CEO of Laekna.

"We have demonstrated to Novartis that Laekna is a valuable collaborator with our strong commitment, experienced team and financing support from the top investment partners."