Soon-Shiong's new biotech pairs up with Amgen on a cancer immunotherapy

Patrick Soon-Shiong

Billionaire physician and biotech entrepreneur Patrick Soon-Shiong has launched a company devoted to immuno-oncology, licensing a treatment from Amgen ($AMGN) to get rolling in the field.

NantCell, a subsidiary of Soon-Shiong's NantWorks, is getting off the ground with hopes of developing therapies that train the immune system to attack cancers. The company is paying an undisclosed sum to get its hands on Amgen's AMG 479 (ganitumab), an antibody that targets Type 1 insulin-like growth factor receptor to kill tumors. The treatment failed in a Phase III trial against advanced pancreatic cancer back in 2012, but NantCell believes it can use genomics to find the ideal patients for the therapy and make it a success.

Soon-Shiong, who sold his Abraxis BioScience to Celgene ($CELG) for $2.9 billion back in 2010, believes ganitumab has a future in the growing field of cancer immunotherapies, tabbing the drug as a cornerstone of his latest venture.

"This month marks the 10 year anniversary of the FDA approval of Abraxane, the first protein-based chemotherapy delivery vehicle now approved in multiple countries worldwide for breast, lung and pancreatic cancer," Soon-Shiong said in a statement. "It is our belief that the future of cancer care will involve combination therapy with low-dose, metronomic use of multiple chemotherapeutic agents, but combined also with immuno-oncology molecules, or with engineered killer cells targeted at the proteomic profile of the specific tumor, regardless of the anatomical type."

NantCell now sits alongside NantiBody, a recently launched joint venture with Sorrento Therapeutics ($SRNE) that's taking an all-encompassing approach to immuno-oncology, using Sorrento's antibody technology to develop candidates that block the PD-1, PD-L1 and CTLA4 pathways to name just three, the companies said. The plan is to couple Sorrento's experience crafting antibodies and antibody-drug conjugates with NantWorks' years of using Big Data to better understand cancer treatment, taking an all-encompassing approach to oncology R&D.

For Soon-Shiong, the venture is the latest gambit in his expansive approach to oncology, which includes an embrace of Big Data and a slew of biotech deals, including the cloud-based oncology brain trust NantHealth and the more straightforward drug developer NantBioScience. With help from his old friends at Celgene, Soon-Shiong also launched NantOmics, a molecular diagnostics venture with technology that uses genomic and proteomic analyses to profile tumors. The billionaire's overarching goal is to unite cloud computing, genomic analysis and targeted drug development to create an end-to-end oncology system that can eventually manage a patient's cancer much like the industry currently handles chronic disease.

- read the statement

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