Novartis pays PeptiDream $180M as radiopharma big bang continues

Novartis is pumping another $180 million into its radioligand plan, handing the cash to serial dealmaker PeptiDream to expand (PDF) a peptide-drug conjugate (PDC) collaboration.

Japan’s PeptiDream began working with Novartis in 2010 and, after repeatedly adding to the original deal, formed a collaboration focused on PDCs in 2019. The PDC pact positioned the partners to attach peptides to radionuclide payloads to enable targeted radiotherapy. Like antibody-drug conjugates, PDCs are designed to get drugs to cancer cells without harming healthy tissues.

Novartis paid an undisclosed upfront fee to form the original PDC pact. Now, the Swiss drugmaker has put down a further $180 million and offered up to $2.71 billion in milestones to expand the alliance. 

In return, PeptiDream will use its platform to identify and optimize novel macrocyclic peptides against targets selected by Novartis. The plan is to conjugate the peptides to radionuclides to create assets that will slot into Novartis’ portfolio of radioligands, one of the company’s five core technology platforms. 

Novartis has led Big Pharma’s recent push into radioligand therapy, closing the takeovers of Advanced Accelerator Applications and Endocyte for a combined $6 billion in 2018. The company now sells Pluvicto and Lutathera, radioligand therapies that respectively target PSMA and SSTR, and has continued to strike deals with companies such as 3B Pharmaceuticals, Bicycle Therapeutics and iTheranostics.

The deals have given Novartis access to additional radioligand compounds and targeting technologies as it strives to stay ahead in an increasingly competitive field. In recent months, AstraZeneca, Bristol Myers Squibb and Eli Lilly have inked radiopharmaceutical takeovers worth $1.4 billion to $4.1 billion. 

BMS’ acquisition of RayzeBio gave it another connection to PeptiDream. The Big Pharma is working with PeptiDream on a PD-L1 inhibitor. RayzeBio, like Novartis, identified the Japanese company as a good fit for its radiotherapy plans. The biotech partnered with PeptiDream in 2020 to access peptide compounds for use in PDCs. RayzeBio is on the hook for up to $380 million in milestones per target. 

For Novartis, the expanded PeptiDream agreement adds to a string of recent oncology deals. The Swiss drugmaker agreed to buy MorphoSys for 2.7 billion euros ($2.9 billion) in February and followed up with a $150 million deal for Arvinas' phase 3-ready prostate cancer protein degrader in April.