Swiss drugmaker Novartis to acquire CoStim Pharmaceuticals Inc

By Nicel Jane Avellana

Feb 17, 2014 01:33 PM EST

Switzerland-based Novartis said it will be purchasing CoStim Pharmaceuticals Inc, a move that will grow its reach in a new field of cancer medicines known as immunotherapeutics, Bloomberg reported.

Citing a statement from the Basel, Switzerland drug giant, the report said Novartis will be acquiring CoStim, a closely-held biotechnology firm based in Cambridge, Massachusetts for an undisclosed sum. The field of immunotherapeutics is a market that could potentially reach sales of $35 billion yearly, according to Citigroup Inc Analyst Andrew Baum, the report said.

The purchase will add to the various immunotherapy programs in the Novartis platform. These include one that targets the receptor called PD-1, the same receptor that is the also the focus of such drugs as nivolumab developed by Bristol-Myers Squibb Co and MK-3475 being developed by Merck & Co. Novartis is also working on another immunotherapy treatment that goes by the name of CTL019, the report said.

According to the American Cancer Society website, immunotherapy is also called biologic therapy or biotherapy. It is a form of treatment that utilizes various parts of the immune system to combat diseases in two ways. The first way is by stimulating an individual's own immune system to work harder or smarter to fight against cancer cells while the second is by giving the immune system components like man-made immune system proteins to fight the disease.

In a statement about the acquisition, Novartis Institutes for BioMedical Research Head Mark Fishman said, "Therapy for many types of cancers are expected to increasingly rely upon rational combinations of agents. Immunotherapy agents provide additional arrows in our quiver for such combinations."

Aside from cancer, Novartis also makes pharmaceutical and consumer healthcare products for cardiovascular, respiratory and infectious diseases, neuroscience, transplantation, dermatology, gastrointestinal and urinary conditions, arthritis, vaccines and diagnostics, vision and animal health products, Bloomberg data showed.

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