June 2 (Bloomberg) -- GlaxoSmithKline Plc will partner with Adaptimmune Ltd. to develop medicines that can bolster white blood cells key to the body’s defenses, showing a commitment to cancer research even after selling its oncology drugs to Novartis AG.
Glaxo will pay more than $350 million over the next seven years if the effort is successful, closely held Adaptimmune, a biotechnology company based near Oxford, England, said in a statement today. The deal includes further payments later, including royalties, it said without elaborating.
The partnership indicates the U.K.’s largest drugmaker remains attracted to cancer research, even after agreeing to sell its oncology drugs to Novartis for as much as $16 billion in April. Glaxo will work with Adaptimmune’s cell-based approach as an alternative to immunotherapies targeting proteins called PD-1 and PD-L1, currently favored by drugmakers including Merck & Co., Bristol-Myers Squibb Co., AstraZeneca Plc and Roche Holding AG. Glaxo doesn’t have any PD-1 programs of its own.
“This combination of capabilities offers an opportunity for significant progress in the use of the body’s immune system to fight cancer,” Axel Hoos, vice president of oncology research and development at Glaxo, said in the statement.
While the deal with Adaptimmune keeps Glaxo in cancer immunotherapy work, whether or not the company will follow through with commercializing any resulting drugs is an open question, said Rafael Amado, head of oncology research and development for Glaxo.
“This is actually an R&D deal,” Amado said in an interview at the American Society of Clinical Oncology in Chicago. “The decision of how it will be commercialized, whether it’s something we will do, whether it will be something that will go to Novartis, whether it’s something that goes to another company, that is a decision that will be made in the future.”
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