Novartis is evidently angling for a larger slice of the potentially lucrative cancer immunotherapy market having snapped up Cambridge, Massachusetts-based biotech CoStim for an undisclosed sum.

The Swiss drug giant is already active in the field, with its investigative chimeric antigen receptor (CAR) technology currently being developed hand-in-hand with the University of Pennsylvania.

But taking CoStim under its win gives Novartis a stream of late discovery stage immunotherapy programs directed to several targets, including PD-1, which could result in new therapies helping to circumvent cancer's ability to develop resistance against current single drugs.

"Therapy for many types of cancers are expected to increasingly rely upon rational combinations of agents" [and] "immunotherapy agents provide additional arrows in our quiver for such combinations," said Mark Fishman, head of Novartis Institutes for BioMedical Research, further explaining the strategy behind the move.

Daniel Hicklin, CoStim's President and Chief Scientific Officer, said the deal provides his firm with "an excellent opportunity towards accelerating the development of [its] therapeutics as new medicines for cancer patients".

Merck & Co, Bristol-Myers Squibb, Roche and AstraZeneca are already in the race to bring the first anti-PD-1 drug to market.