Novartis is intending to hand back rights to Aveo Oncology’s experimental antibody AV-380, which it acquired in August 2015 in a deal valued at at least $326 million.

The antibody targets GDF15, a pro-inflammatory cytokine elevated levels of which have been correlated with cachexia - a complex metabolic syndrome linked with malnutrition and severe involuntary weight loss due to the loss of muscle and fat tissue - in patients with cancer and other conditions.

In an SEC filing, Aveo said it had received a notice of termination of the license agreement from Novartis, which gave the Swiss drug giant the exclusive worldwide right to develop and commercialise AV-380 and related Aveo antibodies that inhibit GDF15.

Novartis informed Aveo that the programme is “an important asset” but that development delays, and ultimately the decision not to pursue further development, is the result of changes in management and strategic priorities within the firm.

News of the termination came hot on the heels of Aveo’s move to file a dispute notification regarding Novartis’ compliance with its diligence obligations with respect to the development of the AV-380 programme.

“If the parties are unable to resolve the dispute at the management level, an arbitration could be commenced,” Aveo warned.