Soon-Shiong adds immunotherapy group to personalised medicine vision

Patrick Soon-Shiong and his NantWorks group have made another acquisition in the field of cancer immunotherapy, paying $50 million for a majority stake in Precision Biologics.

Trained as a physician, Soon-Shiong has amassed billions through drug discovery and pharma deals, most notably the sale of Abraxane to Celgene.

He is now building up his NantWorks group via a series of strategic acquisitions.

Soon-Shiong has a vision for Nantworks to be an end-to-end personalised medicine company – developing new targeted therapies, mapping the genomes and proteomes of individual patients, and then providing sophisticated clinical decision-support programmes for doctors based on this data.

Precision Biologics fits into this plan, taking as it does a novel approach to the hotly-contested immunotherapy field.

Headquartered in Dallas, Precision Biologics is developing a pipeline of therapeutic cancer vaccines, using immunised mice to identify three antibodies that can zero-in on tumour cells.

Its specially-designed antibodies are tailored to generate a tumour-specific immune response.

Precision Biologics’ lead drug is NPC-1C (ensituximab), with a small, early-stage trial in 30 patients with metastatic colorectal cancer producing an average overall survival rate of 10.4 months, which compares favourably with current standards of care.

A phase IIb trial for pancreatic cancer is also underway.

The biotech is also developing companion diagnostics to identify patients most likely to respond to treatment.

The Nantworks group recently completed its second acquisition of cancer assets from Amgen, while its NantKwest arm recently achieved a record-breaking $2.6 billion IPO.

“The mission at NantWorks is the pursuit of neo-epitope driven immunotherapy for cancer,” said Soon-Shiong in a statement.

“This investment furthers our mission to treat the biology of cancer, independent of the anatomy, and avoid the devastating toxic effects of standard chemotherapy while activating mankind’s innate immune protective system. With a highly experienced management and scientific team, the company will complement NantWorks’ approach to this paradigm shift in the molecular interrogation and treatment of cancer.”

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