Novartis is looking to widen its portfolio of cancer immunotherapies with the acquisition of Admune Therapeutics and licensing agreements with Palobiofarma and XOMA Corporation. 

Acquiring Admune gives Novartis an IL-15 agonist currently in phase I trials for metastatic cancer. Meanwhile, the licensing agreement with Palobiofarma gives Novartis development and commercialisation rights to PBF-509, an adenosine receptor antagonist currently in phase I trials for non-small cell lung cancer, and the agreement with XOMA gives Novartis development and commercialisation rights to the company's TGF-beta antibody programs.  All three programs will be explored as monotherapies and in combination with Novartis’ own immuno-oncology and targeted therapy portfolios.

Novartis currently has four immunotherapies in clinical trials and five more agents expected to enter the clinic by the end of 2016, including novel checkpoint inhibitors, chimeric antigen receptor T-cell (CART) technology, myeloid cell targeting agents, and STING agonists through a $250 million collaboration with Aduro Biotech.

"The first wave of immuno-oncology therapies has demonstrated the impact this approach can have in treating certain types of tumours, " said Mark Fishman, president of the Novartis Institutes for BioMedical Research. "To realise its full potential requires exploration of the complex system of biological pathways in the tumour microenvironment with agents that can stimulate the immune system to attack a wider variety of tumours."