Novartis is delving deeper into the cancer immunotherapy field through a major multi-year deal with Aduro Biotech, valued at at least $250 million.

The alliance is focused on the discovery and development of next generation cancer immunotherapies targeting the STING (Stimulator of Interferon Genes) pathway, which, when activated, is known to initiate broad innate and adaptive immune responses in tumours.

The move adds another dimension to the Swiss drug giant’s cancer immunotherapy portfolio, which already houses chimeric antigen receptor T-cell (CART) technology and novel checkpoint inhibitors. 

The terms state that Novartis will make an upfront payment of $200 million to Aduro as well as an initial equity investment for $25 million and a future one for $25 million. 

Aduro will lead commercialisation activities and book sales in the US, while Novartis will do so in the rest of the world. Profits in the US, Japan and major European countries will be shared by the companies, but Novartis will pay Aduro a royalty for sales in the rest of the world.

Novartis also announced that Glenn Dranoff has joined the company from the Dana Farber Cancer Institute to lead a new research group dedicated to the discovery and development of new cancer immunotherapies.