Novartis bolsters radioligand portfolio with $1bn Mariana buy

Novartis will acquire Mariana Oncology, a Watertown, Massachusetts-based biotech company dealing in radioligand therapies (RLTs) to treat cancer.

Shreeyashi Ojha, Reporter

May 7, 2024

2 Min Read

Strengthening its radioligand pipeline, Novartis will add Mariana’s lead candidate for small cell lung cancer MC-339, an actinium-based RLT. Under the agreement, the firm also gains Mariana’s in-house radiochemistry and radiobiology teams and oncology radio-conjugation platform, which use both alpha- and beta-emitting radionuclides to address significant therapeutic needs in solid tumor biology.

According to Mariana, its tech allows ligands to change between alpha and beta radionuclides and the desired radiobiology, which together with the medical setting is key to determining the choice of payload. The $1 billion acquisition is subject to customary closing conditions with milestone payments of $750 million upon completion.

“Novartis is committed to pioneering RLT science and accelerating the advancement of new treatments that have the potential to help patients with difficult-to-treat cancers,” a spokesperson for Novartis told BioProcess Insider.

“The acquisition encompasses a robust portfolio of RLT programs spanning lead optimization to early development across a range of solid tumor indications such as breast, prostate, and lung cancer – including development candidate MC-339. The transaction bolsters our RLT pipeline and aligns with our company’s core strategic priorities in oncology and RLT platform innovation. We are excited to work together with the Mariana team to innovate novel RLTs and deliver transformative new therapies for patients living with cancer.”

A radioligand is made of a radioisotope, which emits radiation that damages cells, and a targeted ligand is a molecule that binds to specific markers on cancer cells. The radioactive component has a very short half-life (i.e., the time it takes for the radioactivity to decrease by 50%). Once the radioactivity decays, it can no longer kill the cancer cells as effectively.

In December 2023, Novartis invested 600 million yuan ($84.6 million) in a production site in Zhejiang province, China, citing radiopharmaceuticals as a key strategic growth area for the Chinese government.

Novartis already manufactures radioligand therapies at sites in Ivrea, Italy; Zaragoza, Spain; and Milburn, New Jersey in the US. According to the firm, these sites have the capacity to meet the needs of patients across the globe.

This firm has two approved RLTs, prostate cancer therapy Pluvicto, and gastroenteropancreatic neuroendocrine tumor treatment Lutathera. For the first quarter of 2024, Pluvicto witnessed a 47% growth bringing in $310 million in the US and Europe, while Lutathera sales stood at million with a growth of 14%.

About the Author(s)

Shreeyashi Ojha

Reporter, BioProcess Insider

Journalist covering the manufacturing and processing sectors for biopharmaceuticals globally.  

Originally from India, I am a Londoner at heart. I have recently graduated from Goldsmiths, University of London.  

Feel free to reach out to me at: [email protected].

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