NantWorks, LLC, a California-based medical technology company and Sorrento Therapeutics, Inc, an oncology company developing new, targeted, treatments for cancer, have agreed to establish a global strategic collaboration to jointly develop next generation immunotherapies for the treatment of cancer and auto-immune diseases.
Sorrento has made significant advances in developing human monoclonal antibodies, complemented by a comprehensive and fully integrated antibody-drug conjugate (ADC-) platform that includes proprietary conjugation chemistries, linkers, and toxic payloads. The company’s strategy is to enable a multi-pronged approach to combating cancer with small molecules, mono- and bi-specific therapeutic antibodies, and antibody-drug conjugates.
Investment and Joint Venture
As part of their collaboration the companies agreed to establish a joint venture called The Immunotherapy Antibody JV as an independent biotechnology company with $20 million initial funding. Furthermore, as part of a strategic investment, NantWorks, founded by South-Africa born American physician scientist, and biotechnology entrepreneur Patrick Soon-Shiong, MD, will acquire a 19.9% equity stake in Sorrento by purchasing common stock priced at $5.80 per share, Sorrento’s closing sale price on Friday, December 12, 2014. In addition, Sorrento granted the purchaser a 3-year warrant to purchase 1,724,138 shares of common stock at an exercise price of $5.80 per share.
The Immunotherapy Antibody JV focuses on accelerating the development of multiple immuno-oncology monoclonal antibodies for the treatment of cancer, including anti-PD-1, anti-PD-L1, anti-CTLA4 mAbs, and other immune-check point antibodies as well as antibody drug conjugates (ADCs) and bispecific antibodies.
A fast growing market
The immuno-oncology field has emerged as the one of most exciting and fastest developing pharmaceutical market. Immunomodulatory antibodies are designed to help harness the cancer patient’s own immune system to fight the disease and are being developed for the treatment of a number of solid tumors. This approach, which is being studied for its potential to improve long-term survival across multiple tumor types, has demonstrated therapeutic potential in difficult-to-treat cancers, such as metastatic melanoma and non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC). Since initial success in melanoma, evidence for the notable effects of the immuno-oncology has been expanding, with numerous clinical studies underway or completed in a variety of solid tumors.  
A recent forecast by Citigroup predicts this market to become the biggest blockbuster drug class in history with potential sales of up to $35 billion a year over the next 10 years.
G-MAB antibody technology
“We are extremely pleased to be working with Patrick-Soon Shiong and NantWorks. The investment into Sorrento and formation of The Immunotherapy Antibody JV with NantWorks further validate our G-MAB antibody technology and underscore [our] commitment to seeking strategic alliances in bringing its diverse portfolio of fully human monoclonal antibodies, antibody-drug conjugates or ADCs, and bispecific antibodies into the clinic,” noted Henry Ji, Ph.D, President and CEO of Sorrento. “Our innovative collaboration will unite Sorrento’s capability to develop complex biologics with NantWorks proprietary genomic and personalized medicine technologies. We share NantWorks’ enthusiasm for the potential of The Immunotherapy Antibody JV to produce a pipeline of immuno-oncology products to address unmet needs of cancer treatment.”
Sorrento’s G-MAB technology represents one of the largest and most diverse fully human antibody libraries available in the industry. This antibody library platform, designed to facilitate the rapid identification and selection of highly specific monoclonal antibody (mAb) therapeutic product candidates for drug discovery and development partnerships in the pharmaceutical and biotechnology industry.
“Combining NantWorks’ cutting edge expertise in genomic and molecular profiling of cancer patients and Sorrento’s industry-leading G-MAB antibody technology, we believe will enable us to develop multiple novel therapies for malignant disorders where there is currently a significant unmet need. Through this partnership, it is our goal to provide relief for millions of people who today have limited treatment options. This will be a model relationship aligned to accelerate development and production of novel cancer immunotherapies. We look forward to working closely with Sorrento’s team,” said Patrick Soon-Shiong, MD, CEO and Founder of NantWorks and inventor of the first human nanoparticle chemotherapeutic agent Abraxane® (paclitaxel protein-bound particles for injectable suspension; Abraxis BioScience, LLC is a wholly owned subsidiary of Celgene Corporation).
The core mission of NantWorks is to develop and deliver a diverse range of technologies that accelerates innovation, broaden the scope of scientific discovery, enhance groundbreaking research, and improve healthcare treatment for those in need. To do that, the company is building an integrated fact-based, genomically-informed, personalized approach to the delivery of care and the development of next generation diagnostics and therapeutics.
Advancing pediatric care
Earlier this year Soon-Shiong also launched the Chan Soon-Shiong Institute of Molecular Medicine, a division of the NantHealth Foundation focusing on transforming health systems, and established its first partnership with Arizona based Phoenix Children’s Hospital to advance pediatric care.
As part of its mission, Soon-Shiong’s NantHealth Foundation facilitates the transformation of health systems to focus on health not just healthcare, to create a culture of caring and to support a next generation of clinical scientists in the era of genomics and proteomics.
“We are at a flexion point in the history of medicine in which a fundamental change in patient care is about to begin,” Soon-Shiong noted. “The era of personalized genomic and proteomic driven medicine has dawned and we want to support the development of patient-centered care at the molecular level for the next generation of clinical scientist and healthcare systems to provide precision healthcare.”
As part of the partnership with the Phoenix Children’s Hospital, ranked in U.S. News & World Report’s Best Children’s Hospitals, the Chan Soon-Shiong Children’s Precision Medicine Institute will be established. This is the first of multiple institutions of its kind that to support healthcare organizations in developing the most comprehensive genomic and proteomic database to advance the treatment of cancer and other malignancies.
“We have a shared vision with Phoenix Children’s Hospital to help physicians make well- informed clinical decisions to enhance care for all patients, including the youngest ones,” explained Soon-Shiong. “To achieve this vision requires the computational infrastructure and complex scientific decision support to drive patient centered care for children and adults, alike.”
The Chan Soon-Shiong Children’s Precision Medicine Institute at Phoenix Children’s Hospital will establish and lead a consortium of children’s hospitals that will share and use genomic and proteomic data to fight cancer and other genetic-based pediatric diseases. Through the partnership, Phoenix Children’s Hospital will be home to one of the few supercomputers in the country that can deliver genomic sequencing and proteomics analysis more quickly than ever before.
“Current genome sequencing takes time and that’s something that these patients don’t have,” noted Robert L. Meyer, president and CEO of Phoenix Children’s Hospital. “With [this] transformative technology implemented at Phoenix Children’s, the realization of all children having access to life-saving precision medicine becomes one step closer.”
Applying cutting edge genomic data
The Chan Soon-Shiong Children’s Precision Medicine Institute will also serve as the exclusive national hub for pediatric genomic research and translational precision medicine to advance healthcare for young patients.
However, the advancements in genomics and proteomic data not only effect healthcare delivery from patient and provider standpoints, but also reshape biomedical discovery. Digitization of this unique data parlays into ‘big data’ informatics-driven evidence-based medical practice. And while – in this setting – individualized healthcare for young patient management is a key beneficiary of next-generation medical informatics, the data also harbors a wealth of novel therapeutic discoveries waiting to be uncovered.
“We are living our commitment to clinicians and [young] patients alike,” Soon-Shiong said. “Using the most advanced, most sophisticated tools imaginable today, we are on a mission to [advance healthcare] and establish an adaptive learning system where the power of one can inform many. Partnering with Phoenix Children’s Hospital and the many clinicians treating young patients across more than 75 pediatric specialties will dramatically advance how we care [for young people] today.”
With the most comprehensive genomic and proteomic database to advance pediatric care, the Institute is expected to transform the pediatric healthcare landscape by applying cutting edge genomic data to help physicians diagnose, treat and cure young patients facing serious illness.